The Birthday Effect’s Not So Great


Photo by atalou on / CC BY-ND

Have you heard about “The Birthday Effect?” Apparently, researchers in the United States, England, Switzerland and Japan have found the probability of death increases on or near people’s birthdays.

The main reasons are “stress related to the birthday, increased consumption of alcohol and drugs, and the tendency of terminally ill patients to hold off their passing until their birthday.” There is also what’s called “the birthday blues,” which increases birthday suicides.

The statistical anomaly known as “The Birthday Effect” is seen in some celebrity passings, which are captured now in online round-ups. Of course, since this site aims to be THE source for everything birthday-related, we’re due for a gallery of our own. So, here goes.

Famous Birthday Effect-ers

Renaissance painter Raphael (not the Ninja Turtle named after him) died on April 6, 1520. While the cause of death on his 37th birthday is unclear, “he reportedly died after an especially wild night with his long-time lover Margherita Luti.”

Another painter who died on his birthday? Grant Wood. The American painter, best known for his American Gothic, died of cancer February 13, 1942. He was 51.

Jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet played his final notes on his 62nd birthday. He died in France of lung cancer on May 14, 1959.

Academy-Award winning Ingrid Bergman died August 29,1982, on her 67th birthday. The iconic  Isla Lund from Casablanca had fought a long battle with breast cancer before her death. Her ashes were sent back to her home country, Sweden.

The actress may have been doing a final ode to playwright and poet William Shakespeare who is thought to have died from a heart attack on his own April 23rd birthday in 1616 at the age of 52.

Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (and a Smith College grad — just saying) died on February 4, 2006. She died of congestive heart failure at her Washington, D.C. home on her 85th birthday.

Activist Ella Baker, who fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall, died on her 83rd birthday (December 13, 1986).

One more who rode into the sunset on his birthday? Johnny Longden. The Triple Crown-winning jockey, who rode Count Fleet to Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes wins in 1943, died in 2003. He was born and died on Valentine’s Day.

If birthdays are a reminder of loved ones for you, check out this past blog.

Birthday Secret in North Korea

I never expected to be writing about North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on this blog! But, when the opportunity presents itself to be au courant, I can’t resist.

Just this month the North Korean Supreme Leader had a birthday. But, despite the way the country’s population is trained to idolize Kim Jong-un, there was no big celebration. In fact, the birthday is not even published on the regime calendar — although he is widely believed to have turned 35 on the 8th.

This secrecy is a departure from the traditions established by his forefathers. His grandfather Kim Il-sung’s birthday is commemorated annually on April 15 as “The Day of the Sun.” His late father’s birthday also merits a national holiday, “The Day of the Shining Star,” on February 16. Both dates are marked by mandatory viewings of state broadcasts praising the leaders — and you thought having to hear your colleagues struggling to say nice things about the boss over cake in the conference room was bad.

Birthday Secret

But the current regime has worked hard to mask the very existence of Kim Jong-un’s birthday. When Dennis Rodman sang the leader “Happy Birthday” after a Pyongyang exhibition basketball game, domestic audiences were told only that the NBA player sang “a special song.”

North Korea watchers quoted in The Telegraph suggested the birthday silence may be a show of respect to Kim Jong-un’s elders. He doesn’t want to be seen as anything more than the loyal follower. He needs time to build up his own “cult of personality.”

Or maybe he just doesn’t want people telling him how he’s supposed to act since he’s a Capricorn. His Zodiac sign is credited with a “social, charming and hardworking personality.” The astrology site I reviewed also noted: “While there are many people that prefer solitude, you are most energized by social settings, where you can display your charm, warmth and wit.”  Oh well, at least he has the capricious part of being a Capricorn down cold.

birthday card

A Birthday Card Kerfuffle

As you can easily imagine, I’m all in favor of signing a group birthday card. Yes, it can be challenging to come up with something distinct to write when 15 other colleagues or peers are signing the same card, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Nevertheless, I did get a chuckle out of the kerfuffle surrounding a recent call from the GOP to sign a virtual birthday card for Eric Trump. Someone had the idea to enlist all the nation’s Republicans in sending well wishes to the President’s second son for his 34th birthday January 6.

birthday card

The mocking responses streamed in from the twittersphere. The Huffington Post shared several:

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Happy Birthday to All

Now, of course I wish everyone a happy birthday — regardless of whether or not I agree with their political views. But, I have to agree with the many people pointing out that it’s odd for the GOP to be asking people to recognize the birthday of a private citizen, just because he’s related to the President.

Plus, really, what kind of “personal message” are you supposed to add when writing to an individual you have never met? I began this blog with a mention of my difficulties coming up with something personalized to say on a card when I was chiming in on one that several people had already signed. And that was for someone I at least know!

If you’re going to participate in social media birthday card sending, can I suggest an alternative that might mean more? There are quite often card showers for children with illnesses or elderly relatives who are removed from family. Consider this example from Hershey, Pennsylvania for a boy with cancer:

In doing this blog I even discovered on Facebook a Card Shower Club that brings together volunteers to help people commemorate milestones. Check it out!



Birthdays are WHY you age, per preschoolers.

birthday party

Photo by Carnesaurus on / CC BY-NC-ND

I’ve always wondered why some people avoid birthday hoopla. They don’t like being recognized on their special day and a party is too painful. But new research might shed some light on the issue. Maybe the birthday pooh-pooh-er’s haven’t outgrown their belief that the birthday party actually ages them.

Apparently, children prior to turning six or seven, “mistakenly believe that birthday parties cause aging.”

The research published in Imagination, Cognition, and Personality shows that nearly 40% of the preschoolers surveyed thought people would gain a year or two in age on their birthdays.

The study adds to research examining the ways in which children process of growing and aging. Usually around four years of age, children begin understanding that certain living things get bigger. In another year or so, they’ve figured out that living things eat food to grow. But, apparently birthdays and birthday parties “present a complication to the young brain, as it’s an event that’s indelibly linked to a person’s age, and by consequence, the aging process itself.”

Birthday Complications — No way

This isn’t the first study to find this result. Scientists in 2002 came to a similar conclusion, but their study was structured in such a way that the current child psychologist wanted to tackle it again with fewer limitations.

In the recent work, Jacqueline Woolley, a UT Austin prof, told stories about birthdays to nearly 100 kids between the ages of 3 and 5. One story was about a three-year-old who had no party, another who had a pair of parties, and a third about a child simply turning three.

The children were then asked how old the birthday child would be — 54% correctly said the no party child would still be three, but 38% of them thought the two party child would have aged more to turn either be four or five.

Woolley wrote in the study: “Children of all ages seemed to believe that not having a birthday party can halt, or possibly even reverse, the ageing process and that having multiple parties can speed it up.”‘

birthday party


Influence for Birthdays


birthday influence

Photo by davidyuweb on / CC BY-NC-ND

Lately I’ve been writing in my day job about influencer and affiliate marketing. This is when a brand or business partners with someone who has a loyal following on social media or a blog or YouTube channel to get the message out about their products or services. It’s why you now see a #affiliate these days — affiliate marketing needs to be disclosed per the FTC’s Truth in Advertising rules.

But what does this have to do with birthdays? Well, back three years ago when I started this blog one idea I had was to try affiliate marketing. There are all kinds of “rah rah” articles out there about this being a great source of “passive income.” But, I never did anything to follow up on that angle.

Now, as I’ve been writing about the trend, I’ve been thinking how much I could enjoy being a birthday influencer. I’ve even come up with the categories I would happily influence — since it can mean getting free product, or early releases, or more reach for this blog too.

Birthday Influence Ideas

My thinking is could hold sway regarding:

  • Chocolate.
  • Birthday cakes.
  • Cupcakes.
  • Other birthday yumminess.
  • Balloons.
  • Birthday cards.
  • Birthday party planning.
  • Birthday apps.
  • Birthday presents (especially costly electronics or any athletic shoes my son would love me forever for getting earlier than his friends).
  • Destination travel.

Really, I could be very influential — and, I’m good at finding a way to spin things to relate to birthdays! So, in 2018 if any of my readers are looking for an influencer for birthday content, let me know! In the meantime, consider this fair warning that I might be trying out some new ideas next year on the website to test out this whole “passive income” theory. It shouldn’t impact what I write, or the fun you have reading this blog, but it may mean there will be an ad inserted somewhere on the website.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday 2018!

Officer Brings Birthday Happiness to Boy

This one is sweet and sad. When an eight-year-old boy didn’t get picked up from school, and staff couldn’t reach an emergency contact, the police were called.

When Officer Darryl Robinson of the Green Bay Police department in Wisconsin arrived to collect the boy he recognized him immediately. He’d had a history with the family and knew the boy’s parent was incarcerated.

Even though no one had arrived to get him, the boy “was in good spirits,” Robinson said. Why not? It was his eighth birthday!

birthday generosity

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPD

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPDRobinson gave the birthday boy a ride in his patrol car. “He was very excited to ride in one,” he said.

Then, after reaching the grandfather to confirm it was OK, he brought the boy to McDonald’s. And just like that it was a happier birthday: “He loved playing with the toy in his Happy Meal.”

The Response is Sweet Too

People commenting on the story on the Police Department’s Facebook page thanked Robinson for his efforts. One woman offered to drop presents for the boy off at the police station to be delivered. Another commenter wrote:

“I think I just felt my heart break…Thanks to the officer for making that boy’s birthday a little better.”

I second that emotion. The officer did an admirable thing, but it’s sad to think of this boy sitting alone at school on his birthday. The good news is that it only took an hour or so before the boy could be reunited with his grandparent and siblings.

Makes me think of the blog I wrote earlier this year about being there for a kid’s birthday, and another one about agencies doing their part to make sure every child gets to celebrate a birthday. Glad to have a heartwarming tale to share though about birthdays even in the heart of this holiday season.

The upside of our 40s?


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At a surprise birthday dinner for a friend the other night, someone suggested we offer encouraging input about turning 40. The other women at the table, even the one person who was not yet 40, chimed in with how much stronger they felt now that they were older:

  • “I know what I want and can ask for it.”
  • “I don’t care as much what other people think.”
  • “I’m better at saying No.”
  • “I can love the people I choose to love and not worry so much about the others.”
  • “I’ve figured out who I am.”

All this sounds great, right? But I was having a more difficult time coming up with positives. I still love birthdays, but I feel as if this is the year where I stopped loving getting older.

The flip side of 40s

In the past I was the youngest of all my friends, so that helped. But that’s not true any longer. At this event, I was the deepest into the 40s of any of the women at the table. Later that night I asked the same question of my husband, a year older than me. He also didn’t have a lot great to say about being in our 40s. Our list looks more like:

  • “My hair is really turning gray now — all over.”
  • “The wrinkles on my face are deepening noticeably.”
  • “It is nearly impossible to lose any weight no matter how much I exercise or how well I eat.”
  • “More foods disagree with me now.”
  • “My body takes so much longer to recover from exercise now.”

Now, the obvious answer is that we’re just more negative people (or a cake half eaten kind of people). But, I don’t know about that. I am otherwise in a good place in my life. I practice mindfulness. I am exercising regularly. I eat more intentionally than I have in the past. I am doing a job I love. I get to blog about birthdays…

Maybe I’m just more of a realist. The women at the table were being cheerleaders helping the woman turning 40 to feel good about her milestone birthday. They might agree with me about all of the items on the second list, but realized that wasn’t what our friend wanted to hear at that moment. So, let’s chalk it up to another advantage of being 40 — we know when to keep our mouths shut in favor of greater peace and happiness. for those around us!