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Shock Study Finds People More Likely to Die in U.S. on Christmas Day Than Any Other Day of The Year

December 22, 2010
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Shock Study Finds People More Likely to Die in U.S. on Christmas Day Than Any Other Day of The Year

imageA new study has baffled researchers after revealing U.S. citizens are more likely to die on Christmas Day than any other time of the year.

Analysis of U.S. death certificates between 1979 and 2004 found an extra 42,325 natural deaths in the two weeks starting with Christmas above the usual seasonal winter increase.

In an article in the Social Science & Medicine journal, researchers said that mortality in general increased over the holidays, and deaths in hospitals rose dramatically on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

The study found that more people died on hospital wards, or had died before arrival, on the public holidays than on any other days of the year.

Researcher David Phillips, a sociology professor at the University of California, told the National Post: ‘It’s not trivial. We looked at all cause categories and, for nearly every one, we found an excess of deaths – particularly for people who are dying rapidly, like dead-on-arrival or dying in an emergency department.’

He said that the team’s analysis of 57.5million death certificates showed the chance of dying during the holiday period increased ‘somewhere between three per cent and nine per cent, depending on the demographic you’re looking at’ and ‘somewhere between one per cent and ten per cent, depending on what cause of death you’re looking at’.

He added: ‘It’s speculated that psychological stress can make a difference.

‘But to make a difference so quickly and so precisely bang-on Christmas and [New Year’s Day], for a huge range of diseases, makes it seem unlikely as a broad-scale explanation.’

Possible explanations behind the spike in deaths include overcrowding in emergency departments, winter travel, cold weather and substance abuse.

Mr Phillips and two other researchers at the university wrote a paper linking sudden infant death syndrome with alcohol use.

In the paper, which appeared last month in the Addiction journal, they argued that cot death increased 33 per cent on New Year’s Day – triggered by an increase in alcohol consumption by carers.

Researchers also noted two other days which reported higher than usual instances of cot death.

July 5, the day after Independence Day, saw a 14 per cent increase, while April 20 – popularly used as a holiday to celebrate cannabis consumption – saw an 18 per cent rise.