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Are you in danger from Christmas?

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Car crashes, food poisoning and booze - just 3 factors that go towards making the festive season a particularly dangerous time of year.

Official figures show that accidents and avoidable deaths peak between the week leading up to Christmas Day and the end of the third week in January.

The NHS says although wintry weather is partly responsible, there are some specific threats to life and health that stem from the Christmas holiday season.

Excess winter deaths

Seasonal illnesses brought on by winter viruses and the cold typically cause the death rate in England and Wales to climb by about 20% from December to March. This causes around 25,000 extra deaths each year.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that, on average, the 4 week Christmas period is responsible for an extra 2,481 deaths each year.

The data shows that by Christmas Eve, an average of 1,682 people die each day – a rise of around 10% on the beginning of December – and that this climbs to 1,766 on New Year's Day.

The NHS lists a series of factors that make the festive particularly dangerous. These are:

  • Traffic accidents in December, which go up around 30% for women and 9% for men
  • Accidental poisoning during December, which rises by about 15% for women and 10% for men
  • Accidental falls, which rise by about 16% for women and 21% for men during December
  • Accidents caused by fire in December, which increase by about 40% for women and 27% for men
  • Accidents due to natural and environmental factors, such as exposure to cold or flooding during January, which go up by about 103% for women and 145% for men
  • After the main Christmas festivities are over, January sees an increase in suicides of around 3% for women and 5% for men
  • Homicides and assaults on women rise by about 12% in January.


The Christmas season sees a sharp rise in drinking and taking drugs. ONS statistics show that Britons drink 41% more during December than the monthly average.

The number of deaths where the underlying cause is alcohol and drugs is 13% above the December and January daily average between December 21st and January 19th.

With offices, factories, and schools closed, it is not surprising that more of us will have accidents in the home. The number of deaths each day during the 4 week Christmas period goes up by 15% on the average for December and January.

Christmas trees

It may sound surprising that the humble Christmas tree appears to be a major threat to life and limb.

Every year about 1,000 people are injured by their Christmas tree, usually while fixing stars and lights to the higher branches. Around 350 people a year are hurt by Christmas tree lights, as a result of falling while putting them up, getting electric shocks and burns, or children swallowing the bulbs.

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