The deadliest day of the year.
Enough people die each year that there are reams of data on which days claim the most lives. With millions upon millions of deaths — for a variety of reasons — and only 365, 24-hour periods to choose from, it’s only natural that one would stand out.
Turns out it’s January 1, so Happy New Year!
The revelation comes from a recent study conducted by David Phillips, a sociology professor at the University of California at San Diego.
He looked over 57 million death certificates (U.S. only) and found that during the 25-year period from 1979 to 2004, more people died on January 1 than any other day.
It’s not quite clear why New Year’s Day is the deadliest day of the year, but there are some possible culprits, which the Independent points out.
“The really interesting thing about this data, is that New Year’s Day doesn’t take the top spot simply due to accidents,” writer Louis Dore writes. “The deaths are generally attributed to illness, disease and natural causes rather than accidents and homicides.”
According to Phillips, most “people postpone going into the ER around the holidays because they want to be with their family.”
He also speculated that holiday staffing in urgent care facilities may play a role, with fewer employees to care for the usual influx of people in need of urgent care.
Concerning the methodology, Phillips’ paper states that he “initially examined deaths from all natural causes combined, and then examined separately the five most common disease groups, i.e., diseases of the circulatory system; neoplasms; diseases of the respiratory system; endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases; and diseases of the digestive system (National Center for Health Statistics).”
In some analyses, Phillips examined not only the primary cause of death but also secondary causes (available information from 1983 forward).
“We focused initially on mortality in the emergency department,” Phillips writes, “because earlier studies found that this site is unusually crowded during the holidays…. Overcrowded EDs can result in ambulance diversion… and can delay arrival at the ED. These delays can increase the number of patients who are ‘dead-on-arrival’ (DOA). Therefore, in addition to examining ED deaths, we also examined those which are DOA.”
According to a separate report from the National Post, same study, it is possible that sick people postpone death to try and reach these symbolic occasions.
But, Phillips notes, “If that were the case, you’d expect not only a peak on the holiday but a compensatory drop in deaths before the holiday. No such drop is evident.”
More of Phillips’ report can be read in its entirety at this link.
Now that the deadliest day of the year has been identified, Phillips says that the next step “is for other people to follow up and figure out the mechanisms that produce this.”
For now, he adds, the message is to pay attention to your health, and to your health resources, particularly on these two occasions.
While it’s pretty clear the holidays have the market cornered on death, there are other days that have a higher specified mortality rate.
One of those that stand out most is Halloween, which is the deadliest day of the year for pedestrian traffic accidents.
What do you think about these findings, readers?
Do studies like the one above concern you about the holiday time of year? Do you have anyone in your family that needs to hear it?
Also, do the holidays — and not just the deadliest day of the year — make you want to live a more healthy lifestyle?
Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via ShutterStock]