We now interrupt the “fa la la la la” with a bit of lifesaving buzzkill: Heart-related deaths spike during Christmas. It’s a holiday thing, btw, not a cold-weather thing.
That’s the eye-opening finding from Australian researchers published on Thursday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Investigators analyzed death trends over a 25-year period in New Zealand, where Christmas falls during the summer and death rates are usually at a seasonal low. Between 1988 and 2013, there were 738,409 deaths — 197,109 were cardiac deaths. Investigators found a 4.2% increase in heart-related deaths outside a hospital from Dec. 25–Jan. 7.
Why the uptick? There are “two separate groups in the population who make up the deaths associated with the ‘Christmas effect,’” author Josh Knight, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, told the Daily News. That includes individuals who are delayed — possibly because of distance or access issues — in seeking treatment over the holiday period and end up having a cardiac event that would otherwise be non-fatal. Another group: high-risk people who want to leave the hospital to spend Christmas with their family. “There is anecdotal evidence of people ‘hanging on’ till major events but the scientific literature is divided about the reality,” said Knight.