Intended for healthcare professionals

CCBYNC Open access

Rapid response to:

Research Christmas 2015: Infection Control

Bloodcurdling movies and measures of coagulation: Fear Factor crossover trial

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 16 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6367

Rapid Response:

Scary movies and venous thrombosis: Google’s answer

Greatly fascinated and inspired by the work of Nemeth et al.1 suggesting an association between watching scary movies and upregulation of “fear factors” of coagulation activity we wondered whether such relation is merely an academic curiosity or might have meaningful implications for global health. As truly modern scientists we rephrased our question into a Google compatible search taking benefit of Google’s N-gram viewer (, a program which enables quantifying historical patterns of the occurrence of a word or phrase in both scientific and lay literature.2 Searching all English literature from the 1950s onwards from which time humankind has been exposed to horror movies on a large and systematic scale, we specifically assessed whether the occurrence of ‘scary movie’ and its associated synonyms ‘horror movie’ and ‘frightening movie’ were related to the frequency with which the terms ‘vein thrombosis’ or ‘venous thrombosis’ were used. Interestingly, the frequency patterns with which scary movies and venous thrombosis are reported in the literature show a remarkably close temporal association (Figure 1). Thus, our results extend those of Nemeth et al.1 to the real-life arena and suggest yet another blatantly hidden threat of modern life-style to humanity’s health.


1) Nemeth B, Scheres LJ, Lijfering WM, Rosendaal FR. Bloodcurdling movies and measures of coagulation: Fear Factor crossover trial. BMJ 2015;351:h6367
2) Michel JB, Shen YK, Aiden AP, Veres A, Gray MK, Pickett JP et al. Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books. Science 2011; 331(6014):176-182.

Figure 1 legend:
Google N-gram’s results for the search query “(scary movie*5 + horror movie*5 + frightening movie*5),(vein thrombosis + venous thrombosis)” showing the frequency of ‘scary movie’ and its associated synonyms ‘horror movie’ and ‘frightening movie’ (blue line) and the frequency of the terms ‘vein thrombosis’ or ‘venous thrombosis’ (red line) in the English literature from 1950 onwards. In order to clarify the temporal association between the two lines the frequency of scary movie and its synonyms was multiplied by five.

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 December 2015
Nasir A. Aziz
Medical doctor/Postdoctoral researcher
Martijn R. Tannemaat, MD PhD
Leiden University Medical Centre, department of Neurology
Albinusdreef 2, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, the Netherlands