The deadliest days of the year

According to an analysis of death certificates in the USA, the risk of death is highest during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s Day – causes unknown

At least in the USA, the Christmas holidays and 1. January the deadliest days of the year. Studies had found that from Christmas to New Year, the number of suicides, murders and accidents increases. This led sociologists at the University of California to take a look at the normal death traps. Since external causes of death, such as those mentioned above, are small compared to natural causes. 93 percent of deaths occur "natural" Causes back.

It is interesting to ask whether during this period, when there is a lot of eating and drinking and when medical care is not optimal because of the holidays, the number of deaths usually increases. Isolated studies had indicated that an increase in fatal heart diseases was observed at Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Image: ANKAWu/CC-BY-SA-3.0

For their study, published in the journal Social Science Medicine, the scientists have evaluated more than 57 million death certificates from the years 1979 to 2004. It is clear that the number of deaths always increases in the fall and reaches a relatively steep peak at the turn of the year, and then steadily decreases and reaches the low during the summer. The most deaths in a year actually occur on the 25. and 26. December and on 1. January. These are the deadliest days for all causes of death, considering the number of deaths in emergency departments and the number of people who are already dead on admission.

Deaths from drug abuse or murders, suicides, accidents reach record highs in first week of January, but also increase significantly during Christmas week. If all deaths are taken into account, there is only one peak between Christmas and the first week of January, but no more peaks on individual days. In the two weeks over 42.000 more people than statistically expected in the whole year.

There are only conjectures as to explanations. Increased psychological stress could be a possibility, but there are no data on this. The most likely cause is overcrowding in understaffed emergency departments. It is possible that terminally ill patients prefer to stay at home with their families during the holidays. But there is no evidence for this amption, just as there is no evidence for the amption that people can delay their deaths until the holidays, or that flu and pneumonia play a role, especially when it comes to explaining the record values over the three days. A combination of reasons probably has an influence, but in the end all that can be said is that Christmas and New Year’s are death risks, but the causes are unknown.

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