Hound of the Baskervilles effect

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7345.1098 (Published 4 May 2002)
Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1098

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What about the good days?

  1. John H Glaser, data analysis consultant (glaserj@alum.mit.edu)
  1. 4 Woodpark Circle, Lexington, MA 02421, USA
  2. University of Wales, College of Medicine, Cardiff CF14 4XN
  3. Sociology Department, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0533, USA
  4. Mathematics Department, University of California at San Diego

    EDITOR—Phillips et al have uncovered a fascinating relation between the day of the month and the mortality rate for Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans.1 There clearly is an increase in chronic heart disease deaths of Chinese and Japanese on the fourth day of the month. Phillips et al attribute this to the similarity in the Chinese and Japanese languages of the spoken words “death” and “four.”

    Have Phillips et al considered whether days with a pleasurable association might have a beneficial impact? Their analysis shows a decrease in mortality for Chinese and Japanese on days 20, 26, and possibly 12. Is there any resemblance, either spoken or pictorially, between the words for those days and words evoking feelings of relaxation, wellness, or happiness?

    References

    1. 1.

    Bad4U?

    1. Robert G Newcombe, senior lecturer in medical statistics (Newcombe@cf.ac.uk)
    1. 4 Woodpark Circle, Lexington, MA 02421, USA
    2. University of Wales, College of Medicine, Cardiff CF14 4XN
    3. Sociology Department, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0533, USA
    4. Mathematics Department, University of California at San Diego

      EDITOR—In a large observational study Phillips et al noted an increase in cardiac mortality on the fourth of the month among Chinese and Japanese Americans that does not occur in white matched controls.1 This increase is particularly marked for inpatient deaths from chronic heart disease in California (figure 3). Phillips et al link this observation to their cultural and linguistic association of the number 4 with death.

      This effect may well be real, but some important issues remain unaddressed. Phillips et al have addressed a …

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