Feeds

Is Friday the 13th bad for your health?

Spooky stats

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Also in this week's column:

Is Friday the 13th bad for your health?

Asked by Tanya Applegate of Ithaca, New York

Superstitions have existed since humans became humans. Research backing such superstitions is another matter entirely. In 1988, David Lester, a suicide specialist and professor of psychology at the Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey wrote a brief article in Psychological Reports arguing that in the US there is a statistically significant greater number of suicides and homicides on Friday the 13th.

In 1993, Dr T J Scanlon and three colleagues from the Department of Public Health at the Mid Downs Health Authority in West Sussex, presented evidence in the British Medical Journal that in the UK the number of hospital admissions due to transport accidents increases by as much as 52 per cent on Friday the 13th.

They write: "Friday [the] thirteenth is unlucky for some." They even suggest that "staying at home is recommended".

In 2002, in the Americal Journal of Psychiatry, Dr Simo Nayha from the Department of Public Health Science and General Practice at the University of Oulu in Finland, examined Finland's death statistics from 1971-1997.

According to Dr Nayha, this examination revealed that there was a statistically significant greater chance of dying in a traffic accident on Friday the 13th for women, but not for men. Dr Nayha went so far as to point out that "an estimated 38 per cent of traffic deaths involving women on this day were attributable to Friday the 13th itself".

Just how this comes about was less clear. Nayha's finding was disputed by Dr Donald Smith, a psychiatrist from Risskov, Denmark, in the same journal later that year. Nayha's finding was also challenged by Drs I Radun and H Summala of the Traffic Research Unit of the Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki.

These two researchers were very familiar with the statistics Nayha had examined. Writing in the November 2004 BMC Public Health, after re-examining Nayha's figures and investigating figures from Fridays the 13th from 1989 to 2002, Radun and Summala conclude there were "no significant differences in any examined aspect of road injury accidents on Friday the 13th for either Finish men or women".

But that's not the "finish" of this research. Drs V V Kumar, N V Kumar, and G Isaacson, three specialists from the Department of Otolaryngology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, investigated whether or not there is any truth to three beliefs often held by tonsillectomy specialists. The first is that more bleeding occurs in a tonsillectomy performed on a child with red hair. The second is that more bleeding occurs in a tonsillectomy performed during the day when there is a full moon at night. The third is that more bleeding occurs in a tonsillectomy performed on Friday the 13th.

Writing in the November 2004 Laryngoscope, the three doctors conclude that no evidence exists to support any of the three beliefs. Despite all of this, the superstition will no doubt continue that Friday the 13th is bad for your health.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?