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OFF BEAT: Birthdays carry greater risks than having too much fun


Despite the potential for presents and cake, birthdays aren’t always happy occasions, according to a new study.

Important occasions, such as holidays and birthdays, might affect the timing of death, according to the study by University of Chicago researcher Pablo Peña.

“A Not So Happy Day After All: Excess Death Rates on Birthdays in the U.S.,” which will publish in the February 2015 issue of Social Science & Medicine, found that the average excess death rate on birthdays is 6.7%.

“People deviate from their usual behavior on or around those occasions,” the study states. “They travel more, host or attend parties, consume different foods, drink alcohol, have more physical activity, gather with more people, etc.”

On the other hand, a birthday or holiday could also serve as a “reminder of a traumatic experience, causing anxiety and other negative feelings,” according to the study.

According to the study, excess death rates on birthdays are higher among people between the ages of 20 and 29, especially on weekends.

People in that age range have an average excess death rate reaching 25.4%, and they show “the largest differences between average excess death rates on weekend birthdays and weekday birthdays,” the study states.

Mr. Peña said in an email on Thursday that he was in the midst of studying other age-related patterns when he first noticed “the spikes in deaths on birthdays.”

The study analyzed records from the U.S. Social Security Administration for more than 25 million people who died between 1998 and 2011.

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