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."

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

EYFS, KS1, KS2 Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

class teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: a small rural school, is ...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: "Where teaching is e...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?