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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Why I Don't Go to the Doctor on My Birthday

Today is my birthday and I am NOT going to the doctor. You may be wondering why I am mentioning this, but there are a subset of people who go to the doctor on their birthday, despite the fact that most people try to avoid doing so. This applies not only to regular doctor visits but also to surgeries – most people try to avoid doing this on their birthday. Dr. Stuart Handysides (terrific name by the way) decided to study why some people decide to go to the doctor on their birthday and published his findings last year in the British Journal of General Practice (full reference below). He looked back at his files for 10 years (2001 to 2010) to identify such individuals and tabulate the reasons.

Dr. Handysides identified 30 people who did this, ranging in age from 1-90 (16 males, 14 females), with a modal age of 50 to 59 years. As it turns out, most of the people (10 of the 30) went in for an acute medical problem. As the author points out, if you have an acute medical problem you usually seek help when you need it, regardless of the day. However, such patients often express disappointment that their birthday has been taken up by a medical appointment. That being said, not every person seeks medical care the same day of acute symptom onset so Dr. Handysides speculated that a presentation to a doctor on a birthday signifies a more serious problem. Alternatively, he suggested that it may reflect a desire for reassurance that everything is ok on their special day. Another possibility, however, is that some people don’t care too much about their birthday and may not care about going to the doctor on a birthday.

It is interesting to note that in the study, that birthday consulters visited their general practitioner about 6.5 times a year which is almost double the normal average. Three people died on the year they consulted on their birthday, one of whom was the only patient in the study who consulted on two birthdays. The death rate of the birthday consulters was twice as high as non-birthday consulters. Interesting stuff and it may all be coincidence but I am happy that on my birthday, I am not going to the doctor. Special thanks to Dr. Handysides for sending me a copy of his article.

Reference: Br J Gen Pract. 2011 Sep;61(590):575-6.Characteristics of patients who consult their GP on their birthdays. Handysides S.

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