Death takes a raincheck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

17 Scopus citations


Objective: To review the research literature on temporal variation in mortality rates around symbolically important occasions. Methods: Qualitative literature review. Results: Since the early 1970s, at least 18 studies have investigated whether death rates increase or decrease before, during, or after symbolically important occasions such as holidays and birthdays. Some studies but not others have found modest evidence of temporal effects. Methodological issues have raised questions about most of the positive findings. None of the studies provides any direct evidence that a psychophysiological mechanism enables people to postpone or hasten their own death. Conclusion: Research over the past 3 decades has failed to provide convincing evidence that psychological phenomena such as "giving up" or "holding on" can influence the timing of death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-386
Number of pages5
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Cause of death
  • Data interpretation
  • Death
  • Holidays
  • Mortality
  • Psychological
  • Statistical
  • Stress

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