Humor in hospice care: who, where, and how much?

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2005 Jul-Aug;22(4):287-90. doi: 10.1177/104990910502200410.


Humor has been identified as an intrinsic social phenomenon occurring in all groups throughout human history. It is among the most prevalent forms of human social behavior yet one of the least understood or defined. Although researchers in a number of disciplines have studied the effects of humor on patients, limited work has focused on end-of-life care. The present study investigated social interactions involving humor in hospice settings using nonparticipant observation. Results revealed that humor was present in 85 percent of 132 observed nurse-based hospice visits. Of these, hospice patients initiated humor 70 percent of the time. These findings were consistent regardless of hospice setting. Humor was spontaneous and frequent, and instances of humorous interactions were a prevalent part of everyday hospice work.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Death
  • Attitude to Health
  • Data Collection
  • Health Facility Environment / organization & administration
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration
  • Hospice Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Midwestern United States
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Observation
  • Organizational Culture
  • Patient Selection
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Behavior
  • Time Factors
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*