Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas and New Year: Death Risk Factors

Back in late August, I noticed a store clerk setting up Halloween decorations. After I commented that Halloween was really coming soon, the clerk casually mentioned that the Christmas decorations were already up on the other side of the shelf. In the sales world, that’s called getting customers in the holiday spirit early, so they’ll spend more money. Decorations may start them thinking about holiday foods, parties, trips, gifts, and death. Did I say death? That’s probably the last thing most people connect with the holidays.

Should people be thinking about holiday deaths, too? Research from the University of California confirms that they should. Using official U.S. death certificates in various hospitals around Christmas and New Year, researchers examined daily mortality rates. Results indicate that mortality from natural causes is highest in dead-on-arrival (DOA) and emergency department (ED) settings on Christmas and New Year. There are more DOA/ED deaths on 12/25, 12/26, and 1/1 than on any other days for each of the top five disease groups. Yes, Christmas and New Year are risk factors for deaths.

Although the research article didn’t explain precautions people should take that might keep them or their loved ones from being part of holiday death statistics, earlier research reported at “WebMD Health News” presented these recommendations from Dr. Alice Jacobs, president of the American Heart Association:

1) Don't skip regular appointments because of the holidays. Reschedule if needed.
2) Stick to your healthy habits through the holidays, and help your family do the same.
3) Be sure you have enough of your usual medications.
4) Check out the medical facilities where you'll be traveling.
5) Ask your doctor to recommend someone you could see if you need a doctor away from home.
6) If you have symptoms, don't ignore them.

It’s not too early to plan ahead for holiday death risk factors. Have safe and happy holidays!

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”


  1. Very interesting information. Is there any thoughts on why? My dad died on 12/28. Interesting enough, he was nonresponsive since 12/25, I would talk to him believing he could hear me somehow. He passed, hours after 12/27 which was my son's birthday.

  2. Have never seen an article or book on this "phenomenon". This will be an interesting read for me. Thanks much

  3. Anonymous, it's quite possible that your dad did hear you. Regarding thoughts on why these deaths might occur, I would say that these holidays are major times for heightened activities, emotional turmoil, and deviations from safe health practices for many people.