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What the science says about Friday the 13th

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For some people, Friday the 13th instills fear and dread, while for others it’s just another Friday. But does science support the superstitions behind this apprehension? Should you get out of bed today or tuck yourself back under the covers to stay safe and sound? Over the years, scientists have analyzed the data, dissecting the underlying accident rates of this proposed unlucky day. 

In 2002, a study by Simo Näyhä, University of Oulu, Finland, analyzed the number of deaths on Friday the 13th from the national cause-of-death files of Finland.1 An increase in the adjusted risk ratio for females dying from traffic incidents was noted. However, a 2004 study analyzing Finnish road accidents on Friday the 13th found no significant increase in road injuries when comparing data from Friday the 13th to control Fridays, for either males or females.2

A 2012 study by Lo et al., Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia, examined electronic medical record data to assess hospital admissions rates and emergency department (ED) visits on Friday the 13th.3  Their study found that visits to the ED were not increased on Friday the 13th. In fact, there were actually fewer visits compared to one month later. The researchers further broke down the analysis of 13 variables for ED admissions, including motor vehicle collisions, psychiatric visits, seizures, acute coronary syndromes, and animal bites. Only visits for penetrating trauma were higher on Friday the 13th compared to the control dates. The authors conclude that “the ED on Friday the 13th will be just as crazy as any other day.”

If you are one of those individuals who becomes apprehensive when Friday the 13th approaches on the calendar, these studies may not calm your nerves. However, you can learn how to say paraskevidekatriaphobia - fear of Friday the 13th - via NPR. Mastering its pronunciation is itself, an apparent cure for this fear!

  1. 1. Näyhä S (2002) Traffic deaths and superstition on Friday the 13th.Am J Psychiatry 159:2110–2111. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.159.12.2110
  2. 2. Radun I, Summala H (2004) Females do not have more injury road accidents on Friday the 13th. BMC Public Health 4:54. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-4-54
  3. 3. Lo BM, Visintainer CM, Best HA, and Beydoun HA (2012) Answering the myth: use of emergency services on Friday the 13th. Am J Emerg Med 30:886-889. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.06.008