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Why There’s an Increased Risk of Death During the Holidays

Did you know the risk of death increases during the holidays? Learn why you’re more likely to have a heart attack or accident in November and December.
4 Reasons Why Deaths Increase During the Holidays
4 Reasons Why Deaths Increase During the Holidays

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Many people are so busy celebrating the holidays they don’t notice that funeral homes are busier than usual as well. We funeral workers are all too aware that deaths increase at the end of the year. 

Why do some types of death happen more frequently during the holidays? It turns out there are a few key reasons for the increased risk of death during the holiday season

Extra Stress Strains the Brain and Body

Many American adults report feeling extra stressed during the holidays. The stress and anxiety are so bad 45% of people surveyed by BetterHelp say they are concerned about their mental health during the holidays. Of those with a mental health condition, 24% believe the holidays make their condition much worse and another 40% say symptoms are somewhat worse.

There are a lot of things that can cause stress levels to rise during the holidays:

  • Financial concerns
  • Negative family dynamics
  • Pressures of hosting a holiday event
  • Extra cooking and housework
  • Schedules that are more packed than normal

Even gift buying can increase your cortisol levels. All of the stress can seriously impact physical, mental and emotional health during the holidays. What’s worse is that some people deal with the stress by indulging in rich foods or alcohol, which only makes matters worse. 

Surprisingly, the added stress doesn’t appear to increase death by suicide. But the added stress can ultimately cause a person to have a heart attack or stroke. It’s so common that the holidays are known as “stroke season” and cardiologists prepare for an increase in heart attacks. 

If you’re feeling extra stressed in the holiday season make sure to take time for yourself so that you can decompress. Consider giving yourself a relaxing gift that’s focused on improving wellbeing like a massage, acupuncture or a gym training session. Giving yourself extra time to sleep during the holidays is another great idea that will help you avoid the next issue – fatigue. 

Fatigue That Can Lead to Accidents

Americans are already pretty worn out and notorious for not getting enough sleep as it is on a  regular day. The National Safety Council has found that 43% of workers are sleep deprived. Add in all of the extra to-dos of the holidays and there are millions of super sleep deprived people. 

The fatigue increases the likelihood of an accident happening during the holidays. When a person is overly tired they have:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced emotional control
  • Worse coordination and balance
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Less concentration

Research has shown that being tired is basically the equivalent to being drunk. Everything from memory to motor skills are negatively impacted by fatigue. If you’re feeling tired from all of the festivities you definitely don’t want to drive. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have found that car accidents increase over the holidays throughout December. 

Adults should aim to get at least six hours of sleep a night to avoid extreme fatigue that can occur after just a few days of reduced sleep. And if you’re feeling drained during the day, take a short power nap. They really can replenish your energy as long as you keep the nap to 10-30 minutes. A power nap can also improve focus and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

Increased Alcohol Consumption Increases Risk

Another big reason for the increase in car accidents is alcohol consumption. The holidays are a time of indulgence when party invites are abundant. People end up consuming more alcohol during the holidays than other times in the year. 

The period between Thanksgiving and New Years is when drinking is at an all-time high. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are the days when drinking dramatically increases. And Blackout Wednesday is the name given to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Thursday when binge drinking spikes. 

We know this because of alcohol monitoring systems that track DUI offenders. Even among this group that knew their alcohol consumption was being monitored increased their drinking by 33% during the holidays. It’s assumed that these numbers correlate with others who aren’t being monitored. 

Police departments across the country recommend that people minimize driving during the days when holiday drinking is at its highest. And of course, almost arrange alternative transportation if you plan to indulge in a few holiday cocktails. 

Distractions Can Be Deadly

There are a lot of distractions during the holiday season and some of them can be very dangerous. For example, holiday displays can be a major distraction for drivers that can increase the risk of automobile accidents. Or someone could be distracted carrying gifts into a home which causes them to slip on an icy walkway. 

Distractions increase the chance of accidents, beyond diverting attention. When a person is dealing with distractions they are more forgetful and irritable. Their mental health can suffer and cause additional stress, which causes a whole other set of health risks. 

There’s no way to eliminate all distractions, but you can take steps to reduce them. One step you can take is turning your phone off while driving. Also, if you know you are going to be distracted by holiday displays, give yourself extra time for the drive and pull over to admire the decorations. Doing things one thing at a time is actually more productive and fulfilling, so the holidays are a perfect time to minimize multitasking. 


Increased risk of death is an unfortunate side effect of the holiday season. If you’ve lost a loved one during the holidays Cremation.Green is here for you. We can help you easily arrange eco-friendly funeral services over the phone and can handle all of the details for you. We’re available 24 hours every day of the year.

Marlaena Gonzales

Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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