Age Differences in Using Humor to Cope During a Pandemic

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Using humor can be beneficial for coping with stress. Humor can elicit positive emotions, which can bolster cognitive, social, and physical resources. Individuals who use humor to cope with negative affect report more positive well-being. However, it is less clear whether there are age differences in using humor to cope with an acute stressful event (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic). We investigated whether using humor to cope with the pandemic related to lower levels of state anxiety. We further investigated age differences in using humor to cope and whether pandemic-related humor engagement reduced state anxiety levels. We surveyed 163 young adults (18–30 years) and 171 older adults (60–80 years) online during the initial months of the pandemic in the United States. Using humor to cope was negatively associated with state anxiety levels, but engagement with pandemic-related humor showed no relationship with anxiety. Using humor to cope was especially beneficial for older adults. One explanation may be that the positive emotions experienced through humor may beget a broader scope of fundamental resources needed to cope with anxiety during the pandemic. It may be that using humor to cope is a particularly efficacious coping strategy for older adults.