Death waits for no clown. In fact, comedic chops might even accelerate the process for them, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cardiology.

A group of Australian researchers embarked on a rather novel fishing expedition. Using a popular crowd-sourced ranking website — aptly called — they gathered together the top-rated stand-up comedians as well as actors known for their comedic or dramatic skills. Ultimately ending up with 498 stars, they then compared how many of each group had died by 2015 and whether they died prematurely relative to their life-expectancy. In the case of people who fit into more than one category (such as Robin Williams, who was found in all three lists of entertainers), they only counted them for whichever group they landed in first, descending down from stand-up comics, comedic actors, and dramatic actors.

Overall, there were more dramatic and comedic actors who had died, in no small part due to the fact that stand-up comics were on average younger. But perished comics died at a younger age on average than either group, they were more likely to die before their time, and to die of non-natural causes. The average age of death for comics was 67.1 years compared to 68.9 years and 70.7 years for comedic and dramatic actors, respectively. And of the 36 comics who died, 14 or 38.9 percent had done so early, compared to 19.6 percent of the 56 dramatic actors who died. Comics accounted for the only two reported suicides among the bunch, as well as four of the nine confirmed drug overdoses.

And supporting an earlier study of theirs that exclusively looked at popular British comics, the researchers also found that the more acclaimed and presumably funnier the comedian, such as John Belushi (#103), Chris Farley (#37), or Mitch Hedberg (#11), the more likely they fell into the grave much too soon. For other entertainers, there was no such success effect.

"Within an international cohort of stand-up comedians spanning the last century and voted by the public as the funniest of their profession, we discovered that greater comedic ability was associated with a shorter lifespan, even after adjusting for life expectancy differences based on year of birth," said lead author Dr. Simon Stewart, of the Mary MacKillop Institute of Health Research at Australian Catholic University, in a statement. "Conversely, in parallel cohorts of the world's funniest comedy actors and the greatest dramatic actors, there was no evidence of premature mortality related to public-rated professional success or ability."

In fact, the exact opposite relationship to death has been seen among Academy Award winners, with their lifespans being generally longer than everyone else’s, from co-stars to the general public. The same goes for Nobel Prize winners compared to second-place finishers.

So what exactly is different with elite comics? Stewart speculates that since stand-up comedy is a "highly competitive profession with low pay and low job security,” the years of trying to scrape by from gig to gig could take its collective toll on them, even after they’ve achieved some degree of notoriety. "In contrast, elite dramatic actors are more likely to have attained some degree of financial security, with the attendant benefits to health and wellbeing," he said.

There might also be occupational hazards that come with being funny on a wooden stage as opposed to acting on a film stage. The actors that most often grace our magazines and late-night talk shows are oftentimes meticulously managed and encouraged to stay healthy (and thin), while everyone loves and maybe even expects a comic who acts out and misbehaves.

Similarly, the dingy late-night sets familiar to most comics are nothing if not breeding grounds for alcohol, drugs, and even violence compared to the highly rigid structure of a film set. And the lack of a good night’s sleep could surely dampen a comic’s health since poor sleep is linked with “detrimental physiological effects and health outcomes, including increased inflammatory markers, higher blood pressure, reduced glucose tolerance, obesity, heart disease, and mortality," Stewart added.

For those who might consider themselves the funny one in their social circle, though, you shouldn’t be too worried. Having a good sense of humor among regular folks has been tied to a myriad of positive health benefits, including longevity and better luck with relationships (at least if you’re a guy for the latter). And certain kinds of funny, like sarcasm, may even help jog the brain into being more creative and fast-thinking. It should also be kept in mind that the ultimate difference in life expectancy between the three groups of highly-successful entertainers was only three years.

Still, it seems that being funny for funny’s sake rather than for a living may make for a better living.

Source: Stewart S, Wiley J, McDermott C, et al. Is the Last “Man” Standing in Comedy the Least Funny? A Retrospective Cohort Study of Elite Stand-Up Comedians Versus Other Entertainers. International Journal of Cardiology. 2016.