Did he wind up dying?
I would like to add to the debate from a clinical viewpoint. Laughter is basically a voluntary action, but crying is not. The simple test is to laugh out loud—which can be done easily on demand. But, unless the habit has been cultivated over time, it is impossible to cry tears at will.
Smiling is a voluntary relaxation of the facial muscles and it conveys a message to other people that we are feeling happy and nonaggressive. It relieves us and puts others at ease. We need no more than to smile to convey what our feelings are. However, laughter is a much more complicated affair.
The act of laughing relaxes the face, chest, spine and abdominal muscles. A correlation has been shown between the readiness to laugh and a lower incidence of coronary artery disease. Is it reasonable to speculate that smiling is a means of communication but that laughing is a form of relaxation?
Further speculation is fuelled by the little understood reasons behind why we cry out when in pain. This is more than just exhalation or a cry for help as it does, in some way, seem to alleviate the pain. It would be interesting to try to correlate crying out with pain, laughing loudly and the body's production of pain-relieving endorphins. We know that endorphins flood the body when it experiences pain. Is this process boosted by crying out? Does a loud laugh have a similar effect and is it our personal way of achieving a "fix"?
Some people seem able to cry as a means of expressing sadness and self pity but for most it is the product of pain, pleasure or frustration. Clinical studies show that such tears contain derivatives of adrenaline, a hormone secreted in response to stress. The tears act as a safety valve excreting stress hormones when their levels get too high. This prevents potentially catastrophic rises in blood pressure.
Sweat, a close relative of tears, has a similar dual action. We secrete two types of sweat. A relatively clear liquid is produced to reduce body temperature by evaporation—this is the odourless fluid that drips from our bodies in response to exercise. The other type of sweat is caused by stress and worry and results in the smelly shirt armpit that is familiar after a trying day at work.
With babies, their crying is not true crying at all. It is just a shout for attention which is not accompanied by tears—until they become frustrated by a lack of response and their excess adrenaline needs a route out of the body.
Barry, South Glamorgan
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