Researchers from the University of California, David Phillips, Gwendolyn Barker, and Kimberly Brewer, published a report concluding that mortality rates spike during Christmas through New Year's Day. The group published results from the study in the journal Social Science & medicine.
Phillips, Barker, and Brewer can not explain the year end spike but did determine, by examining 57.5 million official U.S. death certificate from 1979 until 2004, that natural deaths rose by more than 40,000 people in the last few weeks of any year. Phillips and his fellow researchers reported that mortality rose during the Christmas season more than any other point in a calender year, and that more people die within hospitals or are announced dead on arrival on Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year's day.
Phillips stated "It's not trivial. We looked at all cause categories, and for nearly every one, we found an excess of deaths - particularly for people who are dying rapidly like dead-on-arrival-or dying in the emergency department." Phillips also concluded that the chance of death during the Christmas season rises "somewhere between 3 and 9 per cent, depending on the demographic group you're looking at, and somewhere between one and ten percent, depending on what cause of death you're looking at."
What researchers can't determine is what mechanism causes the rise between the calender and increased number of deaths. Phillips suggested: "it's speculated that psychological stress can make a difference. But to make a difference so quickly and so precisely bang-on Christmas and [New Year's Day], for a huge range of diseases, makes it seem unlikely as a broad scale explanation."
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