Many people say laughter is good for the body. Others consider laughter a bridge that binds the body and soul. Medically, laughter has been found to make people healthier.
It reduces stress and depression levels. For beauticians or dermatologists, laughter is considered an anti-aging formula as it helps to reduce wrinkles and brightens up the face.
After a good performance, comedians say they killed the crowd meaning they aced their performance, not killing the crowd literarily.
However, some people have died from laughing too hard, which resulted from medical conditions triggered by laughter.
Some deadly medical conditions triggered by laughter include cardiac arrest, stroke, and collapsed lungs. Unfortunately, many people have died from these conditions, but we will explore only ten of them.
10 people who have died from laughter
Below is a list of ten cases where laughter was the cause of death. Some of the cases are modern and well-documented, while others are historical.
One fine evening in 1975, while watching the “Kung Fu Kappers” episode of the goodies comedy, Mr. Alex Mitchel Laughed his last.
Alex was a bricklayer and quite fond of the Goodies comedy. In that particular episode, a character attacks others with a bowl of black pudding, and one defends himself with a bagpipe.
He found the scene funny, and he started laughing hard. In a statement made by Nessie, Alex’s wife, Alex laughed for about 25 minutes nonstop, after which he laughed a huge one and died.
His death became famous, and Nessie wrote to the goodies thanking them for making Alex’s last moments joyful.
It was later discovered that Alex might have died from Long QT (a heart-signaling disorder) when his granddaughter was taken to the hospital after a cardiac arrest. The doctors believed LTQ was hereditary, and she inherited it from her grandfather.
In 2003, Damnoen Saen-Um, an ice cream truck driver from Bangkok, laughed in his sleep until he died.
His wife reported that he had just started laughing in his sleep, and she tried waking him to no avail. He laughed for about two minutes before he gave up the ghost.
His autopsy result showed that he had suffered a heart attack.
The mental health hospital deputy director reported that he was stunned and had never seen or heard of such a case.
He also added that it was indeed possible for a person to suffer from a heart seizure when they cry or laugh hard in their sleep.
In 1989, Ole Bentzen, an audiologist, died while watching the movie “A fish called Wanda.” He died while laughing at a joke made in the movie.
It was reported that his heart rate shot to 250 to 500 beats per minute which caused a cardiac arrest that led to his death.
The scene Ole Bentzen found funny was when one of the characters put chips in his nose.
He found the scene so funny because he and some of his family members had put a cauliflower up their noses to see who could eat a carrot without the flowers falling off.
In 206 BC, the famous Greek philosopher Chrysippus was reported to have died after he witnessed a donkey getting drunk after it ate figs.
This incident happened after the donkey was given some wine to wash down the figs by Chrysippus’s slave.
The sight of a drunk donkey triggered a fit of laughter from Chrysippus, after which he died. In his note, his student documented the account that Chrysippus died “after laughing too much.”
In the present day, doctors have confirmed that his nonstop laughter could have led to asphyxiation, which caused a cardiac arrest and, subsequently, killed him.
In 1782, Mrs. Fitzherbert was said to have died after laughing hysterically when she found a cross-dresser actor funny. She was a widow and had gone to see “The Beggar’s Opera” with her friends.
However, the audience burst into laughter when Charles Bannister appeared on stage as a female character. But Mrs. Fitzherbert’s uncontrollable laughter made her leave the theatre before the second act was over.
Her uncontrollable laughter went on for two days without stopping, after which she died.
In the obituary published in the gentleman’s magazine after Mrs. Fitzherbert’s death, it was written that she died after she could not banish the thoughts of the cross-dresser actor from her memories.
Wesley Parsons was reported to be a popular man who died after laughing at a joke for two hours without intermission in 1893. He was said to have been joking around with his friends when he caught the bout of laughter, and he couldn’t stop.
He continued laughing for about one hour before he suddenly started hiccupping. After about two hours of laughing and hiccupping, he was dead from exhaustion.
The limited medical knowledge at that time could not pinpoint the cause of his death. However, recent cases and improvements in the medical field have shown that intense and excessive laughter can lead to a ruptured aneurysm, collapsed lung, or asthma attack.
All these medical conditions arising from laughter can lead to death.
Zeuxis was a famous Greek painter who lived in the 15th century. One fateful day, he was commissioned by an older woman to do a painting of the goddess Aphrodite, who was the goddess of love, beauty, and procreation.
He was instructed to make the painting to her likeness, and she modeled for it.
When Zeuxis finished the painting, he started laughing at the irony of an old woman depicted as a goddess of pleasure and beauty. It was said that the continued laughter finished him off, and he died while laughing at his paintings.
After hearing the news of the restoration of king Charles II in 1660, he was said to have burst into a fit of laughter and died subsequently.
Thomas Urquhart was a Scottish writer and translator, but he was also a faithful royalist.
Thomas Urquhart had been said to be a loyal supporter of king Charles II. He had fought wars and also been held prisoner.
He was able to get out of prison, and he went into exile. After a few years in exile, news got to him that king Charles II had been restored to his throne. He was so happy he burst into laughter which caused his death.
This is the most recent incident of death by laughter. It happened in Mumbai in 2013 when Mangesh died after watching a movie titled “Grand Masti” with his girlfriend.
The director of the movie theatre reported that Mangesh was said to have been laughing very hard at the jokes when he got a stroke and lost control of his body.
Although he was rushed to the hospital, he died before getting there. The police recorded the case as an accidental death.
In 1556, an Italian writer and dramatist, Pietro Aretino, was reported to have fallen off his chair and died. He was famous for being a clever blackmailer and publishing 16 porn sonnets.
He was said to have died when his chair fell backward after laughing at a joke told by his sister. Some people reported that the laughter caused an apoplexy attack which killed him.
However, other sources revealed that he died from suffocation caused by too much laughter.
His death was famous as Anselm Feuerbach painted it. The painting depicts Pietro Aretino lying on his back on the stone floor moments after his death.
Medical conditions that led to dying from laughter
Laughter can trigger some deadly medical conditions in the body. Some of these conditions are:
Cataplexy is a condition that is similar to a stroke. It is a condition where you are awake but unable to move your body.
Laughter doesn’t cause cataplexy but triggers it, as too much laughter paralyzes the body’s muscles.
Laughter can also cause syncope, which means fainting due to being over-excited.
Being over-excited for more extended periods can cause an increase in the breathing rate, and this, in turn, leads to a loss of carbon dioxide.
Medically, it has been ascertained that an increase in breathing rate combined with the loss of carbon dioxide can cause people to lose consciousness.
Another deadly medical condition that laughter can trigger is asthma. Asthma is triggered by intense emotions such as fear, excitement, crying, and laughter.
Intense laughter can cause suffocation which changes breathing patterns.
It can also lead to a narrow airway which causes asthma symptoms like wheezing, intense coughing, and breathlessness. All these asthma symptoms can lead to death if not quickly attended to.
Another reason people could die from laughing is asphyxiation, which occurs when they cannot get enough oxygen.
Laughing too hard could narrow their airway, which can cause difficulty in breathing or completely stop them from breathing.
This is common with an overdose of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), an inhaled anesthetic used during dental procedures.
An Aneurysm is a bulge that forms in the brain’s artery, with the cause largely unknown.
An Aneurysm is a piece of bad news because a rupture can cause blood to leak in the brain, increase pressure in the skull cavity and starve the brain of oxygen, ultimately leading to coma and, in some cases, death.
How does this matter? Because a peal of hard laughter can cause leakage or the bulging artery to rupture.
This is when the affected person appears to smile, smirk, or laugh in their sleep, although it can also be experienced awake.
The expression is forced and can not be controlled, and it usually stems from a malfunction in the hypothalamus.
Sometimes it can be a result of a tumor in the hypothalamus. The tumor is usually benign, but you should not rule out the possibility of a malignant tumor.
The affected person can proceed to standard quality of life upon successfully removing the tumor.
Should you stop laughing?
I bet this was the last thing you expected to read today. Is laughter responsible for people’s deaths? Well, not quite. Laughter is not killing people; it only triggers responses to illnesses that these people already live with.
In reality, laughter has several benefits, both in the short and the long term.
Short-term benefits include managing stress levels, easing tension, and allowing you to breathe oxygen-rich air with every squeal of joy.
Laughter’s benefit, in the long run, is that it simply makes you feel better, as you keep anxiety and depression at arm’s length.
So should you stop laughing? NO!
When do you seek help?
Laughing sure can cause serious problems. So it helps to have the number of your healthcare provider on speed dial. You should see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after a hearty laugh:
● Temporary loss of consciousness
● Severe headache
● Mental confusion
● Trouble breathing
If you are living with asthma, you might want to ask your doctor about your chances of having a laughter-induced attack. It will help to have an inhaler handy if you have ever experienced wheezing when laughing.
Also, don’t second guess calling 911. Call first responders or go to the emergency room if anything feels off before, during, or after the laugh.
Laughter is still the best medicine
Have there been oddballs who died from laughing? Yes.
But how many times have you seen standup comedy, laughed your head off, and then went to bed okay? More than you can count?
What that tells you is that laughter is not going to kill you. It does not mean you should not err on the side of caution.
It only asks that you live a little. Share those moments with friends and family, and laugh heartily.
After all, it is still the best medicine.