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Chinese and Japanese people are more likely to die from heart disease on
the fourth day of the month because the number 4 evokes superstitious
stress among this group, finds a study in this week's Christmas issue of
the British Medical Journal.
David Phillips and colleagues found evidence that Chinese and Japanese
Americans associate the number 4 with death. They then compared death
certificates for Chinese and Japanese Americans with white Americans from
1973 to 1998.
On the fourth of each month, cardiac deaths were significantly more
frequent than on any other day of the month, and were 7% higher than the
average for the rest of the week. This effect was not evident in white
Americans, nor was it evident in Chinese and Japanese Americans who die
from causes other than chronic heart disease, say the authors.
The authors call this peak "the Baskerville effect" because in The Hound of
the Baskervilles, by writer and doctor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles
Baskerville dies of a heart attack induced by extreme psychological stress.
The fourth day peak does not seem to occur because of changes in the
patient's diet, alcohol intake, exercise, or drug treatment, say the
authors. At present, the only explanation is that psychological stress
linked to the number 4 elicits additional deaths among Chinese and Japanese
patients, they say.
"Our findings are consistent with the scientific literature and with a
famous, non-scientific story," say the authors. "The Baskerville effect
exists both in fact and in fiction and suggests that Conan Doyle was not
only a great writer but a remarkably intuitive physician as well," they
MEDICA.de; Source: British Medical Journal