Aging Well
Senior Health

What's So Funny? That Depends on Your Age

Mean jokes on TV sitcoms aren’t funny to older people, according to a researcher from the University of Akron.

The study, co-authored by Jennifer Tehan Stanley, assistant professor of psychology, looked at the responses of young, middle-aged and older adults to different forms of humor. Younger and middle-aged adults were more inclined to laugh at “aggressive humor,” which makes fun of other people. (“Aggressive humor” shows include sitcoms like The Office.)

However, older people (age 64 to 84 in the study) liked “affiliative humor,” where a number of characters share a funny situation. Stanley cited a classic Golden Girls episode in which the women on the show are publicly embarrassed when they try to buy condoms.

The findings were published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Researchers said that they’re still not sure of the reason behind the varying responses. “They could be generational, in which case we would see that today’s young and middle-aged adults would enjoy aggressive humor more and rate inappropriate behavior as more appropriate when they are older adults…However, if the effects are developmental then it might suggest that the type of humor we prefer changes with each life stage to best equip us to handle the situations we encounter.”

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