We all know that birthdays can be full of hazards – candles in close proximity to hairspray, excessive alcohol consumption, aggressively forced merriment, the realization of our inevitably advancing decrepitude — but “Happy Deathday To You” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
Yet researchers who have studied more than two million people over the course of two decades have found that the term might be apt: we are more likely to die on our own birthday than any other day of the year.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology, found that people over 60 were 14% more likely to die on their birthdays than on any other day. The most common causes of birthday deaths were heart attacks, which rose 18.6% on birthdays, and strokes, which were up 21.5%. There is also a 34.9% rise in suicide, and a remarkable 44% jump for deaths by falling down.
Or perhaps people are keen to emulate famous birthday-perishers William Shakespeare, who died on his birthday on April 23 1616, and actress Ingrid Bergman, who also left on the anniversary of the day she arrived, in August 1982.
Prof. Richard Wiseman, a University of Hertfordshire psychologist, explained to The Daily Telegraph:
“There are two camps – one is the camp that suggests you eat too much and your getting on a bit and that causes you to die. The other is a placebo effect. You are knife-edged on death. And you kept yourself going until your birthday. You think ‘that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m out of here.”
Happy birthday, everyone. And please be careful out there.
MORE: The Long Goodbye