Dying on your birthday seems kind of creepy and cool in a morbid way at the same time, and it’s always one of those strange facts included in collections of wacky tidbits when relevant. (Ingrid Bergman and William Shakespeare both died on their birthdays, for instance.)
But dying on your birthday (no matter how arresting a matching birth and death date is on a tombstone) is not so unlikely a scenario. In fact, research suggests it may actually be likelier than you think.
A study involving a staggering 2.4 million people has revealed that dying on your birthday (a bragworthy factoid you won’t even be around to brag about) is possibly more common than we might assume. Researchers in Switzerland determined that the effect may be due to something called the anniversary reaction hypothesis, and even cite stress surrounding the big day as a reason people are prone to kick it on their birthdays.
Dr. Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross led the Swiss study, which was published in the medical journal Annals of Epidemiology. Ajdacic-Gross said that, quite morbidly, researchers “concluded that birthdays end lethally more frequently than might be expected” during the gathering of data.
Strokes, cancer, heart attacks, falls and perhaps not surprisingly, suicide, were all found to occur more frequently on people’s birthdays than not, with a 14% increased risk of death on that day compared to other days of the year. Once you hit 60, that risk climbs to 18%.
Environmental physiology lecturer Dr. Lewis Halsey commented to The Independent about the study’s findings, saying:
“One interesting finding is that more suicides happen on birthdays, though only in men. The authors suggest that this increase could be related to more alcohol being drunk on birthdays. But perhaps men are more likely to make a statement about their unhappiness when they think people will be taking more notice of them… Or perhaps women feel that it is unfair on others who might be celebrating with them to put them through dealing with their suicide.”
Risk of fatal falls increased likelihood of dying on your birthday as well, and that risk increases beginning four days ahead of a birthday- suggesting death by misadventure isn’t all that uncommon either.