In 1983, Josef Scheppach started an article dealing with the phenomenon of laughter with these words: »It's really not ridiculous: We Germans lose our humor! We laugh only 6 minutes a day. Forty years ago it was 18 minutes at least by the way at a time that has been less funny in every respect!« This observation has been published in P.M., a (popular) scientific magazine.
I mentioned this statement of Scheppach in a short sentence in my book dealing with humor in psychotherapy (»Heilkraft des Humors«, Freiburg 1985). In the following years a countless number of journalists cited exactly this quotation of Scheppach's statement. Eventually, even the London Times published it.
Since 1996, I have organized several international congresses dealing with therapeutic humor in Switzerland and Germany. In 1998, on the occasion of a panel discussion - William Fry and Patch Adams were participating among others - , someone said that children laugh 400 times a day and adults only 17 times. Because I was moderating this panel, journalists implied that I was the origin of this statistical statement!
On the other hand, I am convinced that in our postmodern time the situation for the average citizen is developing increasingly confusing (cf. Oliver James: Britain on the Couch). At least in Central Europe, people seem to appreciate good humor less than in former times. Instead, they seem to prefer disparaging forms of humor.