It’s my birthday and I’ll die if I want to

A Swiss study has found that people are almost 14 percent more likely to die on their birthdays than any other day of the year.

It's my birthday and I'll die if I want to
Brandon Rittenhouse

The researchers analysed data on the deaths of some 2.4 million people over 40 years to find that we are 13.8 percent more likely to die on our birthday, UK newspaper The Independent reported.

The authors of the study, led by Dr. Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross from the University of Zurich, found that many deaths on birthdays were caused by strokes, cancer, falls, heart attacks and suicides, leading to the conclusion that the stress of birthdays plays a significant part in many deaths.

The risk of dying on a birthday was found to increase to an 18-percent likelihood for the over-60s. The chance of dying from a cardio-vascular condition such as heart attack increased to 18.6 percent, with an increase of 21.5 percent for death from a stroke.

The risk of suicide on a birthday was significant only for men, whose chances of dying this way increased by 34.9 percent.

“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,” Dr. Lewis Halsey from the University of Roehampton told the newspaper.

He also suggested that women might not opt for suicide on their birthdays out of a sense that it would be unfair to put those celebrating with them through such an ordeal.

The number of fatal falls also increased by 44 percent on birthdays, with significant increases in instances from about four days prior to the event.

One theory suggests that sick elderly people try to hold on to reach one last milestone before giving up, but the researchers’ evidence suggested that it was in fact the stress of the event itself that caused the deaths. In particular, the researchers found that older people suffer from more acute stress around their birthdays.

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IN NUMBERS: Reasons to be optimistic about the coronavirus situation in Switzerland

Data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows that the rate of contaminations is declining, especially in the hardest-hit Swiss cantons.

IN NUMBERS: Reasons to be optimistic about the coronavirus situation in Switzerland
Measures such as make in and outdoors helped bring infection rates down. Photo by AFP

According to FOPH, after peaking in early November, infections are slowing down in most of the country. Between the first and second week of November, the number of cases dropped by 23.4 percent. 

During the month of October, the positivity rate per 100,000 people was 2101. For the past two weeks, that number fell to 849,2. 

This improvement is most marked in French-speaking Switzerland, where various restrictions were put in place at the end of October to curb record-high numbers of infections. The biggest decrease is in the canton of Jura, which recorded 42 percent less cases. Next are Fribourg (-38 percent), Valais (-36 percent) and Neuchâtel (-35 percent).

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Switzerland: Five reasons to be optimistic 

On the other hand, infection rates in some German-speaking cantons, which have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic, are on the rise.

In Basel City, for instance, increasing infection rates prompted local officials to introduce stricter coronavirus measures from Monday. 

Basel City along with Basel Country, Obwalden and Uri are the only Swiss-German cantons where infections are currently rising.

The R-rate

Another indication that infections are declining is the latest R number— a way of rating the speed at which the disease spreads.

Only two weeks ago, the R rate in Switzerland was 1.05. If this value is greater than 1, the daily number of cases increases exponentially. But if it is lower, they decrease.

Now the nationwide average is 0.78. Experts say that if Switzerland can maintain this rate, the daily number of new infections will be halved every 14 days. 

“This looks like a trend reversal”, said FOPH’s director Anne Lévy. 

“I am confident that we are going in the right direction”, she added.

Hospital admissions and deaths

The number of hospital admissions is also slowly dropping, though it still remains high.

According to FOPH, the rate of hospitalisations was 243 per 100,000 people on November 11th. That number dropped to 13 cases per 100,000 on the 19th. 

The number of coronavirus-related deaths is also declining, although the numbers are still high.

From 95 cases per 100,000 on November 12th, the number fell to 37 on November 19th. 

Authorities say there is approximately a three-week delay between the time a patient is admitted to a hospital and their death. So, the latest numbers are likely still related to patients who were hospitalised before the infection rates dropped.