Celebrate your big day as if it's your last... it may well be

A study of 2.4 million people suggests the chance of dying is higher on your birthday

Birthdays are a time for celebration. But, in truth, after a certain age few people greet yet another birthday with unconfined joy.

According to scientists, the flatness we feel at the passing of another year is the least of our problems. It emerges that we are 14 per cent more likely to die on our birthday, according to new research based on a study of more than two million people.

The authors of the study blame what they have called anniversary reaction hypothesis, or birthday blues, with stress playing a significant part. Causes of birthday deaths included heart attacks, stroke, cancer, falls and suicide.

"We concluded that birthdays end lethally more frequently than might be expected,'' says Dr Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross, who led the Swiss study, published in Annals of Epidemiology.

The researchers analysed 2.4 million deaths over a 40-year period. Results show there were 13.8 per cent more deaths on birthdays than might be expected compared with any other day of the year. The risk increased with age, with the figure rising to 18 per cent among the over-60s. Results for individual diseases show that there was an 18.6 per cent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, and a higher risk of up to 21.5 per cent for strokes. There was also a 10.8 per cent rise in deaths among people with cancer.

Among men, there was a 34.9 per cent rise in suicides, and a 28.5 per cent increase in accidental deaths.

There was also a 44 per cent rise in fatal falls on birthdays, with the risk increasing from about four days before a birthday.

The researchers say there are two competing explanations for the phenomenon. The postponement theory suggests that seriously ill people can somehow hold on until their birthday has passed, as they try to reach the milestone.

However, the researchers say this theory is not supported by their findings. They support the anniversary hypothesis, which maintains it is the event itself that is responsible.

In the case of heart attacks and strokes, for instance, stress may be to blame. Older people, in particular, they suggest, may feel exposed to stress on birthdays. The research indicates that hospital admissions for cardiovascular conditions occur more frequently on birthdays.

"It's a very interesting study," says Dr Lewis Halsey, a senior lecturer in environmental physiology at the University of Roehampton. "It's a great example of the value of super-large amounts of human data. Only with national-level statistics, carefully recorded over many years, can subtle patterns such as these significant increases in death rates on birthdays be uncovered.

"One interesting finding is that more suicides happen on birthdays, though only in men. The authors suggest that this increase could be related to more alcohol being drunk on birthdays. But perhaps men are more likely to make a statement about their unhappiness when they think people will be taking more notice of them.

"Or perhaps women feel that it is unfair on others who might be celebrating with them to put them through dealing with their suicide."

VIDEO
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
liveblogFollow the latest from the Bernabeu as Real Madrid play Bayern Munich
News
Rohff is one of France’s most popular rappers
people
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Arts & Entertainment
tv
News
news
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

English Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

Geography Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents