My thoughts turned morbid over the weekend as I contemplated death. No, not mine in particular, but just in general. I was guessing that more people die around the holidays than other days, and it turns out I was correct. Researchers have found that Americans are more likely to die on Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and on New Year’s Day than at any other time of the year. But before you read the rest of this blog, take a stab at why you think that is. The reason makes total sense, but it may not be what you first guessed.
That was my first guess. Holidays can be a great time when you’re with friends and family, but if you’re alone, it can be pretty miserable. And for those of us who actually prefer the solitude, the thought of spending time with the in-laws and a bunch of screaming nieces and nephews with ADD might tempt you to slit your wrists, not to mention the shock of seeing your credit card bills compounded by year-end property tax bills.
However, the CDC did a study which reports that suicide rates are lowest in December and peak in the spring and fall. So clearly, this is not a contributing factor.
After having survived the Black Friday stampedes in which you wrestled with vicious shoppers for the latest, greatest game gadget, and after bearing the grueling flights and layovers through which you were manhandled at the security check-points, it seems only natural to want to get plastered.
Surprisingly, however, while most states do show significantly higher numbers of DUI arrests during the holidays, thanks to the diligence of highway patrol, it looks like the number of fatalities is actually going down.
On top of that, you may be surprised to know that the most drunken driving accidents do not occur on New Year’s Eve. The holiday that statistically has the largest number of drunk driving fatalities is Thanksgiving (which is not one of the holidays listed above).
Too much fun?
I remember my cousin telling me about how Japanese people tend to go crazy when they get a vacation—driving for hours to the ski slopes, then drinking and skiing nonstop until they finally die from exhaustion.
But while there may be a lot of crazy Asians who take their fun a little too seriously, we’re talking about America and death by gaming has not yet become a fad here.
Elaine’s blog mentioned the force feeding ritual we go through during the holidays. We’re getting a little closer to the answer here. Research has shown that the number of deaths from ischemic heart disease climbs around the holidays. In fact, they’ve dubbed this the “Merry Christmas Coronary” and the “Happy New Year Heart Attack” phenomenon.
I get a coronary just looking at a deep fried turkey and that coconut cream pie dessert.
However, a comprehensive study by a professor at UCSD ruled out likely suspects such as cold weather or changes in diet and exercise patterns for the spike in deaths. For example, the rise in holiday deaths was seen even among nursing home patients, whose diets and activities tend to be strictly controlled.
So what was the final conclusion? The findings pointed to two main factors:
Too many people adopt an “‘I’ll take care of that later’” attitude when presented with unsettling symptoms during the holidays. There’s also an added complication of holiday travel, when individuals are too far away from their regular doctors and choose to put off care until their return.
Medical Staff on Vacation
Ding ding ding.
According to studies, the quality of care we get at the hospital deteriorates over the holidays. Reduced levels of health-care staffing, or staff members who are unfamiliar with individual patients,” seem to be key players in holiday mortality.
Duke University Medical Center researchers say heart attack patients admitted to U.S. hospitals during the winter holidays have higher mortality rates than those admitted during the rest of the year. The researchers found that during these holiday hospitalizations, patients were less likely to receive the same care they would normally receive if they were admitted any other time of the year. Patients were less likely to be prescribed aspirin as well as beta blockers at admission and/or at discharge. They also were less likely to receive major procedures necessary to open blockages, etc.
So a word to the wise—try not to get sick on a holiday.
Have a safe and Happy New Year!