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A ghost of Christmas yet to come?

As we have discussed previously, the days around the Christmas holiday have been found, in at least one study, to be the most dangerous of the Thanksgiving to New Year's Day period. Now, CNN spreads more good cheer with a report that Christmas Day carries the greatest chance of death of any single day during the year.

While there is no clear evidence as to a single reason for this, one researcher suggests that lack of access to medical care could be the reason. He examined deaths in Level 1 trauma centers and found the likelihood of death was even greater for those facilities. Inadequate staffing at these facilities could lead to more deaths, because as he notes, "seconds make a difference" with this type of critical care.

In addition to potential medical malpractice, junior staff is more likely to be scheduled on these days, and their relative lack of experience plays a role when every second matters.

The story also points out that people who need medical attention may put off seeing a doctor or going to an emergency room, so as not to disrupt a Christmas holiday with their family.

The report dismissed common assumptions that such things as binge eating or drinking could trigger the spike in deaths. It also dismissed homicide or suicide, both which decline during the holidays.

One researcher hoped that his study would help hospitals, and patients, properly plan for dealing with emergency medical issues during the holidays. Hospitals should examine their staffing levels and the experience of the staff scheduled to ensure that patients with the greatest need do not receive substandard care.

Source: CNN, "Why do more people die at Christmas, New Year's?" Jen Christensen, December 24, 2013

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