The Surprising Day You're Most Likely To Die

For many of us, birthdays tend to be a time of joy, mirth, and celebration ... but is there a dark side to that day on which we all throw parties, sing songs, and blow out candles on our cake? Research suggests that the answer to that question may be a resounding "yes." According to a Swiss study from 2012, 13.8% more people die on their own birthday compared to any other day (per Annals of Epidemiology). A study of over 12 million people in Switzerland also found a 17% excess mortality on birthdays (via Sozial und Praventivmedizin).

However, this effect may not be limited to just the birthday itself. A study of nearly 3 million Californians discovered that people are also more likely to die on the week of their birthdays. In particular, women are more likely to die shortly after their birthday, whereas men are more likely to die shortly before (via Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine).

Why are people more likely to die on their birthdays?

Some scientists suggest that we may just be wired to die around the time of our birthdays (via Biogerontology), but if that seems like a stretch, there are many other possible explanations. Annals of Epidemiology found that many excess deaths could be attributed to cerebrovascular or cardiovascular diseases, particularly in women. Since women's death rates dip below normal just before their birthday, and then surge higher than normal on and after their birthday, The Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine theorizes that the birthday may serve as a lifeline for women. Some dying women may hang on until they reach a meaningful and positive occasion.

Business Insider also suggests that birthdays remind people that they are getting older, which may increase anxiety and distress — which is not good for a person's overall health. This is particularly true for people who already have health conditions; people are even more likely to die of cancer on their birthday, according to Annals of Epidemiology.

Many other excess birthday deaths can be attributed to accidents that occur during birthday celebrations. According to Annals of Epidemiology, men are more likely to die of falls on their birthday. Young people are also more likely to experience car accidents on their birthday, which may be due to drinking, suggests a Japanese study in Social Science & Medicine. So during your birthday celebrations, be sure to take precautions against accidents, and please don't drink and drive.