The essence of humour and its effects and functions: a qualitative study

J Nurs Manag. 2002 Jan;10(1):21-6. doi: 10.1046/j.0966-0429.2001.00272.x.


Humour is one of the innate abilities that an individual develops whilst growing up and which is affected by his/her experiences in life. The purpose of this study was to describe which categories can be included in the term 'humour' and to describe the effects and functions that humour has on people. The study was exploratory. The data were based on 20 interviews, nine of which were made with women and 11 with men who had no formal connection to health services or nursing. Ages ranged from 17 to 75 years and all the interviewees were from Sweden. The research question was: 'what does humour mean to you?'. The answers given were labelled as: laughter, happiness, unforeseen events/situations, real humour/art form, jokes, plays on words/puns, situation comedy and political satire. The categories were: possibilities/obstacles and weapon/protection. We conclude that the essence of humour can be categorized as possibilities/obstacles and weapon/protection. Humour has effects and functions on individuals. Empathy is a prerequisite for the use of humour in the context of health services and nursing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Laughter*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patients / psychology
  • Sampling Studies
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*