Archives for death



Your End of Days: Would Life-Length Testing Save the Government Money?

A Spanish company announced this summer that it can help determine when people will die by using a blood sample, a $700 test, and research that earned three American geneticists the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009. Though the test has its critics, and though it won’t offer an exact date for one’s death, it does promise to reduce uncertainty about longevity by examining a tiny part of DNA that reveals biological age as opposed to chronological age. Successive generations of the test are likely to improve in predictive power.

Our ignorance about an individual’s longevity is the source of a number of problems. Many of them are personal, but some have implications for society writ large, and taxpayers in particular. So one wonders: if the government can make you confront the calorie content of your diet, can it also make you confront your mortality?

If the government were to mandate “life length” testing, it could help resolve the intractable lifetime savings problem. Pervasive under-saving among households is a result of our impatience, to be sure, but it is certainly also a consequence of the fact that no one knows how long his savings need to last. Save too much and you miss out on having fun when you’re alive. Save too little and you end up broke and reliant on the social safety net that taxpayers fund. Read More »



On Payday, Watch Your Back

Another thing to add to the list of things to be paranoid about: your paycheck might kill you. Notre Dame economist William Evans, along with Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland, analyzed more than 75 million deaths in the U.S., and found something interesting.

On the first day of each month, the death rate goes up. Read More »



Why You’re More Likely to Die After Getting Paid

Last year, Notre Dame economist William Evans, along with Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland, documented that mortality rates spike by almost one percent on the first day of every month, remain high for the next few days, and then steadily decline over the course of the month. Now they think they’ve figured out one reason why: our paychecks are killing us.

In a study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Public Economics, Evans and Moore examined the death records of four demographic groups in the U.S.: seniors on Social Security; military personnel; families receiving tax rebate checks in 2001; and recipients of Alaska’s Permanent Fund dividends. Their results show that mortality increased the week after checks arrived for each of these groups. Read More »



Freakonomics Radio, Hour-long Episode 3: “The Suicide Paradox”

There are twice as many suicides in the U.S. each year than murders. And yet the vast majority of them aren’t discussed at all. Unlike homicide, which is considered a fracturing of our social contract, suicide is considered a shameful problem whose victims — and solutions – are rarely the focus of wide debate. In this third hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll push back suicide taboos, profiling who is most likely to commit this act (and least likely), and what we know about them. Read More »



Women Stage a Funeral Comeback

Slate reports that women are making a comeback in the funeral industry: “Today 57 percent of U.S. mortuary school graduates are women, up from 5 percent in 1970. Though this influx is stereotype bashing, it’s also something of a homecoming.” Read More »



A Classic Public/Private Clash

My mom passed away recently, and we’re planning a memorial service in her home city, where none of us three offspring lives. There are lots of expenses: the service; food afterwards; planes and hotels for all of the children, grandchildren and any great-grandchildren who can come. Read More »



“If You Must Be Hospitalized, Television Is Not the Place”

I ran into an old friend the other day whose actor husband is a regular on the TV show House. We caught up on friends and family, etc., including a few mutual acquaintances who have died since we last spoke. As we parted, I couldn’t help but laugh: at least these unfortunate deaths, I thought, were nowhere near as numerous as those on the kind of TV show her husband appears on. Read More »



Bad News for Me on Two Fronts

A new meta-analysis looks at past research into whether a person’s performance on basic physical functions like walking speed or ease in getting out of a chair predicts death. Read More »