How Your Sense of Humor Works

Dollars and Sense: How Much is Your Sense of Humor Really Worth?

It’s the key to Love, Health† and Wealth.

So how much is it worth?

Let’s do the math:

(in 4 easy steps)

1. It’s a key ingredient in all good relationships, especially marriage.

SixthRound_0088_Layer 53 copyYour sense of humor is the essential ingredient in any good relationship—especially marriage. A marriage without a sense of humor is far more likely to end in divorce. Happy couples have a sense of humor.

Many psychotherapists have observed that a sense of humor is the glue that keeps a couple together.

When a couple can no longer laugh together, says Thomas Moore, Ph.D., best-selling author of Care of the Soul, it’s a signal that the soul has gone out of their relationship and they are headed for trouble.

And what is a marriage with a sense of humor worth?

According to one study, happy married couples had a median household income twice that of divorced households and four times the household income of separated households.

Net Worth. Married couples have the greatest net worth. A family’s net worth is the value of all its assets minus any liabilities it holds. Married men enjoy an income increase called the marriage premium. Married families also tend to save more, have higher net worth, and enjoy greater net worth growth from year to year.

Income decline follows divorce, particularly among women. Divorcing or separating mothers are 2.83 times more likely to be in poverty than those who remain married. Following a divorce, the parent with custody of the children experiences a 52 percent drop in his or her family income. The children of divorced mothers are less likely to earn incomes in the top third of the income distribution, regardless of where in the income distribution their parents’ income fell.

Source: © 2011 Marriage and Religion Research Institute • 801 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

Estimated Value of a sense of humor in your primary relationship: 50%. Half your income and half of your net worth. The median income in the United States is around $50,000. So that is at least $25,000 per year.

2. It reduces stress and stress costs a lot.

SeventhRound_0007_Layer 208 copyIn the United States we spent $9217 per capita in 2008. That was more than $9000 for every man, woman and child—every year. But most of these costs aren’t attributable to everyone—just the sickest Americans. Health problems are attributable to a wide range of causes from poor habits to poverty to old age. One indisputable fact is that stress is one of the most significant factors in poor health.

There are now over 200,000 articles and books about stress. Stressed‐outworkers are less productive, make more mistakes, have more accidents, and are absent more.

The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs $300 billion in lost productivity alone.

  • 60 to 80 percent of worksite accidents are the result of stress
  • 75 to 90 percent of visits to physicians are stress related.
  • 20 percent of the total number of health care claims are stress related.
  • 16 percent of health care costs are explained by stress.


  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired memory
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Ulcers
  • Weakened immune system (cancer, infections)

Your sense of humor directly counteracts stress and it is vital for good health.

Your sense of humor helps to:

  • Reduce stress and tension.
  • Stimulate your immune system. (Activated Lymphocytes and Immunoglobulin)
  • Increase natural painkillers in your blood.
  • Decrease systemic inflammation.
  • Reduce your blood pressure.
  • Lift your spirits.

People who laugh a lot have lower standing blood pressure than most people. Ina study at the University of Maryland, people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations than people without heart disease. There’s also deep relaxation following laughter, as our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension drop to below normal, and stay below normal for up to 45 minutes.


  • Number of B lymphocytes
  • Number of activated T lymphocytes
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Number and activity of natural killer cells
  • Gamma interferon

Total health costs of not having a sense of humor: 16% of $3 trillion = $480 billion per year. If just half of that were reduced by improved wellbeing that your sense of humor can engender, that would be a savings of $48 billion per year. There are around 150 million Americans in the workforce. Estimated Value of a sense of humor in fighting stress: at least $16,000 per working American each year. 32% of annual income.



“If I had no sense of humor I would long ago have committed suicide.” Mahatmas Gandhi


3. It can help depression.

Depression is a national crisis in America. 19 percent of Americans will suffer from depression at some time during their lives. Sadly, depression hits the young and old alike. 50 percent of children and adolescents and 20 percent of adults report some symptoms of depression. People who suffer from depression end up with six-tenths of a year less schooling, an 11 percent decrease in the probability of getting married, and a loss (on average) of $10,400 per year in income by age 50 (Smith & Smith, 2010). In fact, there is a 35 percent decrease in lifetime income–due to depression. The cost for the total group–over one’s lifetime–is estimated at 2.1 trillion dollars (Smith & Smith, 2010). And this does not include the increased cost of medical care that all of us must assume.

The cost of depression (lost productivity and increased medical expenses) is $83 billion each year, which exceeds the costs of the war in Afghanistan (Greenberg, et al., 2003).

  • 1.8 million Americans attempt suicide each year
  • Suicides in one year cost the U.S. $13 billion in lost earnings.*
  • 1.3 million years of life are lost to suicide annually.**
  • Suicide attempts requiring hospitalization cost the U.S. $3.8 billion each year.***
  • For each suicide prevented, the U.S could save an average of

$1,182,559 in medical expenses ($3,875) and lost productivity ($1,178,684).****

Suicide is a serious public health problem. Suicidal depression is usually rooted in mental illness that requires medical attention. Some suicidal depression can be treated with drugs. A large number of cases have been shown to be treatable with cognitive therapy. Effective programs have helped reduce the incidence of suicidal thoughts and have helped some of those suffering from depression to smile again, and to find the broad wisdom and healing perspective that their sense of humor can bring. A sense of humor brings joy and pleasure to life. Joy and pleasure are often effective antidotes to depression that can lead to suicide.

If just half of all cases were improved by a sense of humor that would lead to a savings of $45.7 billion in lost earnings and medical expenses. There are 150 million working Americans. The value of a sense of humor in fighting depression: at least $305 per working American in reduced costs.


*Knox, K.L. et al. American Journal of Public Health. 2005

**National Center for Injury Prevention and Control,

***Suicide Resource Prevention Center,

**** Suicide Resource Prevention Center,

4. Your sense of humor brings home the bacon.

homer-pythagorasA sense of humor doesn’t just make your workday more fun, it also helps you perform better and get ahead—at least at the executive level. A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.

A sense of humor increases productivity–and wages–in businesses that reward productivity (and don’t exploit low wage workers).

It is well known that unhappy people try to buy happiness. This has led some researchers to conclude that money is what makes people happy. But new research has figured out that it’s the other way around: happiness isn’t just linked to higher income — it’s helps generate it. Money doesn’t really make most people happier, but happier people tend to make more money.

The average median pay raise in America in 2013 is around 3%. If half of all pay raises are tied to productivity and half of of productivity relies on the worker’s happiness and sense of humor then: sense of humor is basically worth a 1.5% bonus every year: $750.


New Study Shows Happy People Make More Money

10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work


So Here It is: Total Annual Value of a Sense of Humor for the Average American: $42,055/year.

Up to 80% of average annual income and wealth depends on a sense of humor.

That leaves less than $8000/year for the average person that has no sense of humor.

Your sense of humor is true wealth.

Over 80% of America’s wealth depends on it.

That means everything: our homes, roads, schools, and national defense.

The food on your table,

the glide in your stride,

the pep in your step.

Everything depends on your sense of humor.

Now get out there make someone laugh.

Our nation is counting on you.


The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.– Mark Twain 

Find your sense of humor and get your own personalized humor feed at

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