When Are People Most Likely to Die?

April, the "Cruelest Month" -- T.S. Eliot

When We Die -- By The Numbers

At Memory Glass, our sales data since 2002 shows an obvious uptick during the months of December through February. However, there's no lack of opinions on when during the year most deaths occur. Going back 2500 years, the philosopher Hippocrates explored the seasonality of deaths and the contemporary writer T.S. Elliot thought April was "the cruelest month." But how do their experiences match up with the government data, or more importantly, to your company's data?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data on 66.8 million deaths since 1999 reveals that on average, January is America’s deadliest month. The next highest lethal months follow in line -- February and March, with December ranking fourth.


Interestingly, New Year's Day is the deadliest single day, with daily deaths ramping steadily upward throughout the Holidays. To get even more precise, studies by Harvard University show that people are most likely to die at 11 a.m.


Seasonal variations also stand out when reviewing the data. About 20 percent more people die in January than in August, which is typically the least lethal month. Apparently, the human body is not designed to cope well with winter temperatures.


Those seasonal peaks appear to be driven by the big, well-established killers in America: heart disease and respiratory infections. When exposed to the cold, our blood vessels contract, hearts work harder, heart rates and blood pressure rise, and clots become more likely. The risk of a heart attack or stroke therefore increases in winter.


There's also strong evidence showing that activities like shoveling snow can trigger heart attacks and other heart issues, plus cold weakens our defenses against flu, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and other respiratory infections.


Cancer and accidents don’t show the same large, cold-month swings.

And in terms of suicides, depression is often associated with long, gray winters. But counterintuitively, suicides in the U.S. are highest in August.


Finally, funerals can occur on any day, but as is probably known to every Funeral Director struggling to be home on weekends, Saturdays tend to be the most popular. Families often choose weekends for convenience, allowing relatives and friends to attend without work-related constraints.

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