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Why is Christmas one of the deadliest days of the year?
A closer look at the surprisingly not-so-happy holiday
Everybody's day can't be merry and bright...
Everybody's day can't be merry and bright... (CC BY: Stanrandom)
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rue fact: You are more likely to die on Christmas, the day after Christmas, or New Year's Day than pretty much any other day of the year.

Like ugly sweaters and bizarre fruitcakes, the spike in the fatality rate has become something of a yuletide tradition. Indeed, the morbid trend appears to have held consistent since at least the 1970s, per a new CNN report. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 percent of all Christmastime deaths are due to natural causes — heart attacks, respiratory diseases, digestive problems, and the like.

While examining U.S. death certificates, UC San Diego sociologist David P. Phillips noticed that the paperwork seemed to pile up every year around the holidays. So he and his team pored over three decades' worth of death certificates and emergency room literature to try and figure out if the dreaded Christmas death spike was the real deal. Their conclusion: "There are holiday spikes for most major disease groups and for all demographic groups." (One noticeable exceptions: Children, who don't see a spike.)

Phillips and his team have a few theories why. Stress could certainly have something to do with it; the same with cold weather. One of the more frightening possibilities, of course, could simply be that hospitals are understaffed around the holidays, when health-care professionals are taking time off like everybody else to be with loved ones.

"We are always getting a slew of obits this time of year," Andrew Meacham, the obituary writer at the Tampa Bay Times and president of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, told CNN. "I noticed this happened pretty regularly."

Sadly, that means that not only Santa, but also the reaper, have very busy days ahead of them.

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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