Comedians from the world over flock to the Fringe every year, but could watching comedy actually be good for your health?

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is back in full force after last year's event faced restrictions, and performers and audiences alike will be chomping at the bit to get back into cosy venues, open-air performances, and all of the weird and wonderfulness it has to offer.

With stand-up, improvisation, sketches, theatre, musicals and more, there are plenty of thought-provoking and hysterical shows on - all day, every day - across the capital of Scotland. But, the Edinburgh Fringe is perhaps best known for the incredible comedy it hosts, as comedians flock to the city in droves.

Watching comedy and having a good laugh doesn't just feel fun though. It can really benefit your brain and body too.

Anxiety-fighting and mood-boosting powers

"Laughter is one of the best forms of medicine for banishing the blues and brightening the mood, it's something we should all be doing more of every day," says Dr Dimitrios Paschos, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health (

It can also be hugely beneficial in helping to ease social anxiety and distract from pressure or negative feelings, Paschos notes.

"When we experience anxiety, we have increased levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are counteracted by the endorphins released when we laugh," he adds.

Laughing releases tension

Edinburgh Fringe is weird and wonderful to say the least - and our bodies respond to the weird in funny ways, says Paschos.

"Our brains find 'inconsequential anomalies' funny. When something out of order is picked by the brain, attention, alongside other mental resources, is rapidly shifted to the novelty to decide if it is a threat. We take a deep breath or stop breathing. As soon as we realise it is not a threat, we 'laugh it off', thus fast releasing mental and bodily tension.

And what about the body?

Researchers have measured physiological responses to laughter too. "Laughter immediately increases the intake of air, stimulates blood circulation and makes the brain release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and creates a sense of calmness," says Paschos.

It's may even be beneficial for the immune system. For example, studies have suggested that laughing can help "to increase the production of antibodies, which help protect us from infection," adds Paschos.

Creating comedy can be cathartic too

The process can work both ways too - as well as bringing a boost for audiences, comedy can have healing effects for the comedians creating it too.

From his personal experience as an NHS anaesthetist, author and comedian, Ed Patrick has used comedy and writing as a way of coping with the stress of life on the pandemic's frontline over the past two years. You could say the process of creating comedy can be therpeutic.

"It's a terrifying thing to stand on stage in front of an audience and be vulnerable - but it's also incredibly powerful," says Patrick. "In writing a stand-up joke, comics are often taking their personal experiences and regarding them at arm's length - it gives you a new perspective and sense of control over your own experiences, because suddenly you're thinking about their narrative arc.

"Being able to ruminate on something, process it and laugh about it can have a truly cathartic effect," Patrick continues. "It creates a sort of distance between you and the story you're sharing, that enables you to claim a sort of power over it. This can be incredibly powerful in helping people to deal with past trauma."

Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs until August 29. Visit for more information.