18 December 2004


Based on your observation, do you think there's a connection between heart attacks and the holiday season?

The NYtimes' Anahad O'Connor recently analyzed a possible connection between the two:

In several studies, Dr. David P. Phillips and colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, have found that deaths from heart disease and other illnesses tend to dip just before major social occasions, like holidays and cultural events, then climb sharply right after.

In their most recent study, appearing in the latest issue of the journal Circulation, they looked at millions of deaths in the United States in the last 30 years and found that the largest spikes in those from heart disease occurred on Christmas Day, Dec. 26 and New Year's Day. The rate on those days was 11.9 percent higher than normal for that time of the year.

[NYTimes Health]

The same study found that it is not only heart attack incidence that was involved, but that there was also a notable increase in deaths from other causes, which suggests that holiday stress may not be the cause of deaths.

Anahad O'Connor said the researchers "placed the blame on two factors: staffing and shift changes at hospitals that result in poorer medical care, and patients who delay treatment until after the holidays."

So, deaths during the holidays increase because of poor medical staffing, and stubborn patients? What do you say? You think that's true?

Here in the Philippines where there is a dearth of research studies, all we can do is do is speculate.

In my observation, death from heart attacks and stroke increase during the summer months of April and May, and once more as the Christmas season approaches. I can attribute the former from the stress induced by the heat and humidity, and the latter due to the frenzy caused by shopping, and yes, the depression induced when you run out of money to buy your gifts for your loved ones, or worse, when you spend so much time avoiding people who you think are expecting gifts from you.

It might sound amusing, but that is my theory. Unlike the American setting, I cannot place the blame on poor medical staffing, because the experience here is that most hospitals see to it that the emergency rooms and the wards are properly attended to, holiday season or not.

I can also speculate that one of the reasons many die or get sick during the holidays is because of simple stubborness and the usual aversion to doctors of most Filipinos, especially the seniors. I have this wonderful theory on what really killed FPJ and its impact on the overall Filipino setting, but I might be jumping the gun already. I plan to write about that in a couple of days.

If you have other ideas what might be responsible for the increase death incidence during the holidays, kindly share them here. Thanks and take care always.

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