Does “will to live” really make a difference in when you die?



Past research suggests that people are more likely to die after rather than before important ceremonial events (a death deferral effect). We replicated this finding in a sample based on more than 30 million decedents. In analyses in which we tracked deaths day by day, we analyzed four major events: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and participants’ birthdays. People were more likely to die just after rather than just before all four events. In addition, whereas people were less likely than usual to die on the exact days of Thanksgiving and Christmas, people were more likely than usual to die on the exact days of New Year’s Day and their birthdays. Moderator analyses suggested that these effects reflected a will to live. For instance, effects for both Christmas and the birthday were much stronger for children than for adults.

Source: “Postponing a Date with the Grim Reaper: Ceremonial Events and Mortality” from Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Volume 30, Issue 1, January 2008 , pages 36 – 45

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