Looking at the weekly death statistics or the UK (something a few of us may have started the morbid habit of doing), I noticed an interesting phenomenon which seems to happen every year.

The reports of death around 27th December to 1st January drop off dramatically from the curve line - by about 5,000 per week, the lowest ebb of the year - and then regain their trend.

I imagine this has something to do with the holiday period, but what exactly? Is it more people staying home so less deaths on the roads? People around family so 'hanging on' for a bit longer? Lots of big meals and alcohol (though I imagine this would have the opposite effect, there should be a spike!). Or is it more morgues and coroners are off duty so there are less reports....??

weekly deaths in the UK

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1111804/weekly-deaths-in-england-and-wales/

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    Most likely simply the work schedules of those who collect and report the data. They take the holiday off and report the accumulated numbers when they return to work. You can see the same phenomenon on weekly reports. There's a dip in deaths on weekends and a spike on Monday/Tuesday. But there is no actual dip and spike, just people who don't work weekends.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 15:08
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    Relevant to this question: medicalsciences.stackexchange.com/questions/23719/…
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 15:09
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    And there's also this: medicalsciences.stackexchange.com/questions/23446/…
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 22:49
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    It's actually not sure how it's done unless you check the exact procedures used in the UK. In many countries deaths are actually backdated to the true estimate of death time. But if e.g. lone people get drunk and die in their homes and are only discovered a few days (or in odd cases weeks) later, totally precise backdating may not be possible. Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 8:41
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    Note that according to CNN the opposite happens in reality edition.cnn.com/2013/12/23/health/christmas-death-rate/… "Several studies show you have a greater chance of dying on Christmas, the day after Christmas or New Year's Day than any other single day of the year." I doubt the US is that special in that regard. Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


The official source for information on death records is the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and there are stats available with monthly figures and weekly figures.

When you look at the weekly total deaths figures for 2019 for example, you notice a drop in numbers during the last week of May, the last 2 weeks of August, and Christmas week.

When you look at the monthly figures, the figures are pretty consistent except there is a much higher figure in January and there are lower figures in June, August and September. Strangely, July's figures are fairly consistent with the rest of the year.

Averages are:

based on the actual number of death registrations recorded for each corresponding week over the previous five years. Moveable public holidays, when register offices are closed, affect the number of registrations made in the published weeks and in the corresponding weeks in previous years.

This could also explain the high figure for January as Christmas will shift some of the December figures into January.

The weekly stats spreadsheets downloadable from the ONS give figures for

All respiratory diseases (ICD-10 J00-J99) ICD-10 v 2013 (IRIS)

The trouble is that without access to ONS data held within their IRIS software, deaths by cause is difficult to ascertain for causes other than respiratory diseases, and you cannot make any meaningful data comparisons with the ONS sheets on suicides as they are recorded in annual figures rather than weekly or monthly.

As far as I am able to find, there is no meaningful information that can be sought regarding causes for the dips in the figures you mention

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