Christmas, The Silent Killer: Ho-Ho-Ho!

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be quite dangerous. Take this 2010 study, which concluded:

"For all settings combined, there are holiday spikes for most major disease groups and for all demographic groups, except children. In the 2 weeks starting with Christmas, there is an excess of 42,325 deaths from natural causes above and beyond the normal winter increase. Christmas and New Year appear to be risk factors for deaths from many diseases."

Some of that mortality may be traced to unfortunate Christmas circumstances and accidents around the Christmas tree, such as falling from ladders or electrical shocks from lights.

But tragedies such as "unilateral phrenic nerve paralysis from cutting down a Christmas tree." Or when "Christmas in the Cotswolds" is subtitled "a personal view of red snapper poisoning," you might be forgiven for wondering how wonderful the Christmas visit was. (And only a few of these examples are taken from the BMJ's always delightful Christmas issue.)

Many children now seem to be indifferent to seeing Santa Claus, although they become less indifferent as it gets closer to Christmas. And you can't get much closer to Christmas than Dr. Christmas himself, immunologist Steve Christmas of the University of Liverpool. Christmas studies natural killer cells -- which does not, of course, explain why the holiday he's apparently named for is linked to a higher mortality rate.

Happy holidays AND TAKE CARE……

Dick

5 Replies

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  • Well that filled me with joy, do we have to now risk access our own Christmas?

    Dick please can you provide the links for your sources and quotations.

    Enjoy your seasons break as much as you can. Life is for living.

    I am also taking a little leave to pamper my children and pets and family and friends and of course myself. The decorations are going up later today, glad I'm 6 foot six, so won't worry about the ladder. But have family intensive care so keeping fingers crossed, Christmas can be hard for some too.

    Mixed blessings/ I hope everyone has some respite and is able to enjoy some of the festivities.

    Merry Christmas or merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and Happy Holidays

    Nick

  • Link... medpagetoday.com/Nephrology...

    Study...

    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/2...

    Also see 'Cardiac Mortality Is Higher Around Christmas and New Year’s Than at Any Other Time'

    circ.ahajournals.org/conten...

    circ.ahajournals.org/powerp...

  • Dick,

    As a journalist , I have always noticed a reduction of pages for obituaries before Christmas and back to normal after New Year.... where do you get your facts?

    Someone is leading you down the wrong path..

    fish 61

  • Firstly PLEASE NOTE.

    I put this light hearted piece on the HU pages with a smile on my face and to produce a smile back. Parts of this are intended to be amusing, but also a cautionary tale for all of us to take care over Christmas.

    Christmas and New Year as risk factors for death

    Social Science & Medicine, Volume 71, Issue 8, Pages 1463-1471

    David Phillips, Gwendolyn E. Barker, Kimberly M. Brewer

    Christmas and New Year as risk factors for death

    David Phillipsa, Corresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author, Gwendolyn E. Barkerb, Kimberly M. Brewera

    a Sociology, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093-0533, United States

    b Center for Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, United States

    Abstract

    This paper poses three questions: (1) Does mortality from natural causes spike around Christmas and New Year? (2) If so, does this spike exist for all major disease groups or only specialized groups? (3) If twin holiday spikes exist, need this imply that Christmas and New Year are risk factors for death? To answer these questions, we used all official U.S. death certificates, 1979–2004 (n = 57,451,944) in various hospital settings to examine daily mortality levels around Christmas and New Year. We measured the Christmas increase by comparing observed deaths with expected deaths in the week starting on Christmas. The New Year increase was measured similarly. The expected number of deaths was determined by locally weighted regression, given the null hypothesis that mortality is affected by seasons and trend but not by holidays. On Christmas and New Year, mortality from natural causes spikes in dead-on-arrival (DOA) and emergency department (ED) settings. There are more DOA/ED deaths on 12/25, 12/26, and 1/1 than on any other day. In contrast, deaths in non-DOA/ED settings display no holiday spikes. For DOA/ED settings, there are holiday spikes for each of the top five disease groups (circulatory diseases; neoplasms; respiratory diseases; endocrine/nutritional/metabolic diseases; digestive diseases). For all settings combined, there are holiday spikes for most major disease groups and for all demographic groups, except children. In the two weeks starting with Christmas, there is an excess of 42,325 deaths from natural causes above and beyond the normal winter increase. Christmas and New Year appear to be risk factors for deaths from many diseases. We tested nine possible explanations for these risk factors, but further research is needed.

    Full article behind paywall at Elsevier

    Abstract copied above from sciencedirect.com/science/a...

    Additional information BMJ based, but via New York Times :-

    nytimes.com/2012/12/18/scie...

    For Dr Christmas . University of Liverpool informational website at :-

    liv.ac.uk/infection-and-glo...

    Dick

  • Great post Dick... a cautionary tale...

    Remember the 'Perfect Winter Storm'... 1 foot of snow, a 65 year old man, a 100 foot driveway, and a new snow shovel....

    Why Can Snow Shovelling be so Dangerous...

    The warning signs of a heart attack include:

    pressure in your chest

    pain radiating down one arm

    shortness of breath or dizziness

    profuse sweating

    intense nausea

    See

    ctvnews.ca/health/health-he...

    Also

    health.harvard.edu/blog/sho...

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