Date of Award

Summer 2004

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Brian K. Payne

Committee Member

Katarina E. Wegar

Committee Member

Judi Caron-Sheppard

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.S62 B66 2004


The main objectives of this study were to identify the connections between the sense of humor and well-being in the elderly population, examine the benefits of humor as a coping mechanism, explore the role of humor as a preventative and therapeutic measure, and to attempt to gain a greater understanding of these connections. Humor has been the focus of study within many different domains, including psychology and medical research (immunology, pain management, cardiology, and psychoneuroimmunology), but there is a distinct lack of theory and research within the sociological realm on this topic (except in social psychology), especially involving the aging population. This study was informed by current theories concerning coping, sense of control, and sense of well-being.

By surveying 87 individuals aged 60 and over, different aspects of humor (our perceived sense of humor, beliefs about our own humor, awareness of the positive benefits of humor, and the propensity to cope with humor) were found to play significant roles in gaining an increase in well-being, with a positive sense of control being the mediating factor. Social support networks and the perceived stress load experienced by the participants were also considered.

The present research explored the hypothesis that having a good sense of humor can influence the choice to use humor as a coping mechanism, which in turn would influence the sense of well-being. It was proposed that the sense of control would enter in the equation as a mediating factor. Results strongly supported the hypothesis.

Overall, the results confirm the importance of a current aging/control theory perspective for the understanding of and intervention in therapeutic programs for elderly individuals. These results are discussed in terms of the importance of education in the positive benefits of humor and the need to consider more research in this area.

Gerontological educators should convey the importance of coping and control dynamics in assisted living situations to their audiences. Geriatric practitioners should be aware that an exclusive focus on creating opportunities to increase personal control is involved in the therapeutic eldercare setting.


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