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Festival Therapy

By Timothy Cocks Science and the world 10 Mar 2014

It’s a Public Holiday (Bank Holiday) today in Adelaide and its also probably our artsiest day of the year with The Adelaide Festival, The Fringe Festival and WOMADelaide all happening concurrently.

Given that the prevalence of chronic pain in Australia is about 20% (Blyth et al 2001), there’s a fair chance that there are quite a few people attending these festivals who experience chronic pain – at least I hope there is, because I think that these festivals provide unique and exceptional therapeutic opportunities for “the complete opposite of a stress response – a hearty laugh in a safe place with friends” (Butler and Moseley 2013).

While the immune system is still a bit of the “new kid on the block” when it comes to pain, the importance of this system in chronic pain is emerging, as is the evidence for the benefit of immune buffering behaviours that are also known to improve pain states including (Butler and Moseley 2013 p88-89):

  • Family and medical support
  • Strong belief systems
  • Have and use a sense of humour
  • Appropriate exercise
  • Have a sense of control over life and treatment options

With comedy shows (including free, “Pop-up” shows) in abundance, the feeling of ‘connectedness’ (and a bit of old-fashioned hippie peace and love) central to WOMADelaide and an opportunity to take a break from the rat-race on what would otherwise be a workday by chilling in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, today might possibly also be the most therapeutic day of the year for Adelaideans (and those that have travelled to our fair city). For anyone who experiences chronic pain who has attended any of the festivals, I certainly hope it is.

-Tim Cocks

Blyth FM, March LM, Brnabic AJ, Jorm LR, Williamson M, Cousins MJ(2001). Chronic pain in Australia: a prevalence study. Pain. 2001 Jan;89(2-3):127-34.

Butler DS and Moseley GL (2013). Explain Pain. Noigroup Publications, Adelaide, Australia.


  1. The only difference between the rich and the poor is that rich people suffer in more comfort…….Fun laughter and happiness is not always possible on this planet and, for some by nye impossible. However, when ever possible those that can be happy bunnies, if only for a moment although they will still suffer it will be less……

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