Christmas has been revealed to be a high risk factor for death. Numerous studies have shown that individuals have a higher chance of dying on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas or on New Year’s Day than any other days of the year. Such statistics are true for people who pass away from natural causes. These types of deaths account for almost 94% of all deaths stated the Centers for Disease Control.
Researchers state this information is true for people who pass away from the five most common diseases. These are heart disease, various types of cancers, respiratory diseases, digestive diseases and circulatory problems.
The only age group which does not experience a spike in deaths on these certain days is children. David P. Phillips, who was the top author on a number of these research studies, began to notice the Christmas death trend when examining U.S. death certificates.
Phillips is a professor who works in the sociology department at the University of California. He and a team of associates began to look into the number of people who died while in emergency settings and also those who were pronounced dead on arrival between the years of 1979 and 2005. They noticed a definite spike in deaths on those particular days. An earlier study that Phillips performed in 2004 discovered a parallel trend, but it was only studied in deaths related to cardiac problems.
A much more recent study that was done in 2013 found that patients who were admitted into hospitals as emergencies on major holidays are considerably more likely to die than individuals admitted on any other day of the week, and this includes the weekends. Scientists are unable to explain why such a phenomenon occurs, although many theories are present.
An obituary writer for a newspaper in Florida stated that he started to notice that his workload would pick up during the holiday season. He stated that his paper would get many more than usual the number of obituaries during this time of the year. It happened every single year so he decided to call some funeral directors in his area in order to see if they were seeing more deaths coming through. They all admitted their case loads increased with the season as well.
Maybe sadness or just plain stress has something to do with the deaths, he wondered. He stated that he had penned numerous stories over a spouse or significant other dying and then the remaining partner ends up dying within hours, or days during the holiday season. That just shows there could be some sort of mental correlation between the mind and body.
Phillips and his group decided to look over the number of deaths that happened in the Alzheimer’s population, hypothesizing they might be less aware of the holidays coming around and therefore not having to endure the stress they can put on people.
But if anxiety was the only reason behind the deaths, he assumed the Alzheimer patients would not have deaths spiking on any holidays. However, he discovered in that group that cardiac deaths were also higher during the holidays and Alzheimer’s itself was listed as a secondary cause of the individuals deaths.
More people pass away in the winter season than any other time of year, so Phillips wanted to see if there were more deaths in states that had more cold temperatures. That was not the case. The cardiac death peak was slightly reduced in the states that border along the edge of Canada, in contrast to states that border Mexico.
However widespread the belief, the suicide rate does not spike during the holidays. It is just the opposite. In December, suicide rates are actually at their lowest for the year. They peak in the spring and fall. Homicide rates also go down during the holidays. People that have pets are also believed to suffer less stress during the holidays and therefore are less likely to fall prey to dying,
Phillips believes that one of the main reasons that Christmas and New Year’s Day are both such high death risk factors may have a lot to do with access to emergency care. People who are not feeling well might put off an emergency hospital trip because they want to be with their families to celebrate the holidays.
The hospital staffing during the holidays could also be to blame. Those emergency cases are where seconds make the difference between life and death and a major difference could show up between the reactions of a junior to a senior member of staff.
Phillips stated that he hoped the research he has done might be able to help hospitals and patients plan appropriately since it has been revealed that Christmas is a high risk factor for death.
By Kimberly Ruble
The Star Tribune