Myth, busted: Death takes no ‘holiday break’

Myth, busted: Death takes no ‘holiday break’

The Grim Reaper doesn’t take rain checks or a Christmas vacation.

That’s the reality behind the findings of an Ohio State University study, which dispels the notion that cancer patients can cling to life to avoid dying just before or during major holidays and birthdays.

Smaller studies had previously backed claims that a patient’s will to live could keep them alive during holidays. But researchers found no such evidence after examining the death patterns of more than 300,000 cancer patients in Ohio.

There were no noticeable dips in death rates before holidays and no noticeable spikes afterward. Researchers actually found that women were more likely to die right before their birthdays than after.

Other research has shown a dip in the number of deaths among Jewish men just before Passover, the religion’s holiest day of the year.

But in the current study, of the 12,000 cancer patients who died around Christmas, half died the week before or on the day of the holiday and half died the week after.

So why does it seem like so many caregivers and family members of terminally ill patients seem to spot this phenomenon? Researchers say it could be because deaths that occur right after holidays cement themselves in a person’s memory more so than deaths that occur on less notable days.

However, the researchers have yet to study death patterns before or after graduations, weddings or anniversaries, high-sentiment events they say could potentially be even more meaningful to patients than many holidays.

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