Here's What 'Laughing To Death' Really Means

Who doesn't love to laugh? Not only is laughter fun, it turns out it's good for you. Health benefits from laughter range from stress relief to extra-oxygen-rich air intake, among others, according to the Mayo Clinic. We've all likely gasped for air during an especially strong fit of laughter, though. At which point, we may even urge whomever or whatever is that has us in stitches to "Stop it, you're killing me!" Clearly, in most cases, we don't really mean our lives are at risk. But as it turns out, there are several instances throughout history when too much laughter is believed to have really played a part in someone's death.

Although many stories of laughter-induced death happened centuries ago, like in ancient Greece, making it hard to know for sure just what it was that killed the person in question, several such laughing-death cases happened much more recently. This provides much better insight into what might have actually happened. If you're prone to certain conditions, a strong fit of laughter could theoretically put you at risk. Regardless of the reason, death by laughter has to be one of the strangest ways for a human to meet their end, as History Collection explains.

A drunk donkey allegedly killed one Greek philosopher

The most recent example of someone reportedly dying while laughing happened in 2003, when a Thai man in his 50s is said to have woken his wife up late at night laughing and otherwise vocalizing incoherently. After that point, the man in question stopped breathing, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Another modern example of laughter potentially causing someone to die came about in the 1980s, when a Danish man allegedly laughed so hard it killed him watching the classic comedy "A Fish Called Wanda," starring John Cleese from Monty Python, as Vanity Fair explains. Among the 10 or so cases of death-by-chuckle, perhaps the best — and perhaps the darkest — happened all the way back in ancient Greece.

The poor ancient Greek philosopher who died from laughing, or so the story goes, was named Chrysippus (pictured), who lived around 200 B.C. (via the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Chrysippus, it's said, found a donkey drunk on wine so funny, especially after the poor animal tried to eat some figs — perhaps to sober up — Chrysippus couldn't stop laughing and died, per the Mirror. It isn't so much that laughter itself may have killed Chrysippus, though, or any of the other poor souls who lost their lives with a laugh throughout the centuries. What was it, then, that could have caused all those people to meet their end?

Too much laughter can sometimes lead to heart failure

Among the many positive side effects of a regular laugh session include a stimulated heart and cardiovascular system. This is often a good thing, but for older individuals who may have an underlying heart condition, a strong bout of giggling can tax the heart to such a degree heart failure can be induced, according to Healthline. One such example from history where heart failure may have been to blame happened in the case of the Danish man who died while watching "A Fish Called Wanda," as History Collection explains. Heart issues aren't the only health problem, though, that can be exacerbated by an especially strong giggle fit.

Other potential reasons laughter might lead to someone's death include an asthma attack — which, caused for any reason, including possibly laughter, kills an average of three people a day — according to the Global Allergies and Airways Patient Platform. Also related to blood flow, excessive chortling can also bring on a brain aneurysm, cause asphyxiation, or even syncope, which, among other risks, causes low blood pressure and cuts off blood flow to the brain (via Healthline). Little else is known about some deaths recorded in history as having been caused by laughter. So a good fit of laughter really could be to blame. Regardless, death caused by laughter is exceedingly rare and benefits far outweigh risks, proving, as the old saying goes: Laughter truly is the best medicine (per HelpGuide).