Stevie Wonder sang it with gusto over the Jubilee holiday but it may not be a happy birthday if you are over 60. A study of Swiss death certificates published in Annals of Epidemiology has found a significant number of ‘extra’ deaths occur on the day people are celebrating their birth.
Researchers checked the data was sound – some people’s birthdays are not exactly known. They calculated the increased risk as broadly the same for men and women at about 13 per cent, which suggests it’s more than coincidence, as NHS Choices helpfully explains.
But why might birthdays be lethal? The research establishes a correlation, but for cause we have to speculate. People might drink more, leading to more accidents. Birthdays see more of what doctors coyly terms ‘vascular events’, such as stroke: blowing out candles on the cake can be stressful. Sadly, birthdays are occasions for sadness, which may produce more suicides.