The answer is Yes. Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics confirm it. Using data collected from 1995-2002, we see that January is the #1 month for deaths in the US, based on the average number of deaths per day.
#2 is February. December is 3rd, followed by March. Flu season, which peaks during the cold weather months, is a significant factor. But is there more to it than that? We at Hope Hospice believe there is.
Do cold and ice cause more accidental deaths? No, more deaths from accidents occur in summer. One might assume that shorter periods of daylight might cause depression that could lead to suicide. But suicides occur more often in in summer. That is empirical information based on statistics.
Our thoughts on the reason for a spike in the number of passings in winter months are anecdotal, that is, not taken from statistical information. This supposition is based on our experience with patients and, yes, with our own family members.
We believe that many people who die in January and February are those who simply willed themselves to live through the holidays. They wanted to enjoy one more Thanksgiving with loved ones or one more Christmas with kids and grandkids. Once the holidays have passed, that will to live is diminished.
Can a person with a terminal illness choose to stay alive or die? We have witnessed numerous patients whose gradual decline seemed to slow down as the holidays were approaching. Then the decline resumes after Christmas.
There are medical experts who believe that patients cannot postpone death, but our staff members have seen it happen. The human spirit is an amazing thing.
We at Hope Hospice have experienced the seasonal January-February increase in declines and deaths during years past and will not be surprised should it occur again in 2013. We will be there for our patients and their loved as the new year begins.