Objective To determine if people dying from cancer are able to prolong their own life in order to experience a certain biographical event, or whether the appearance of such an occasion leads to increased deaths before the event.
Methods We compared numbers of cancer deaths during a period of 1 week before and after biographically important occasions, which were birthday, Christmas and Easter. As a psychogenic postponement or hastening of death is most likely in chronic diseases (as opposed to accidents or cardiovascular events), we included cancer deaths only. We estimated relative risks (RRs) with their corresponding Bonferroni corrected CIs to assess effects of biographical events. All registered cancer deaths in Germany from 1995 to 2009 were included (3 257 520 individual deaths). Numbers of deaths were corrected for seasonality.
Results Considering all cases, there were noticeably more deaths than expected in the week preceding Christmas, leading to an RR of dying after the event of 0.987 (CI 0.978 to 0.997). Estimates indicating a hastening of death were consistent over several subgroups. Other occasions showed inconsistent results, especially there was no convincing postponement effect in our data.
Conclusions While there is no evidence of different death numbers before and after Easter and birthdays, the appearance of Christmas seems to increase deaths.
- Psychological Stress
This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.