I feel sorry for people born in or near December. The holidays and their birthdays are almost right on top of each other, so those folks have to wait almost a whole year for their next gift avalanche. Now I've found another reason to pity those birthed around the end of the year, especially those born in October. They might be more susceptible to certain diseases later in life, according to a new study.
Columbia University scientists compiled the birthdays and medical records of patients from New York City databases and found that people with May birthdays may have the healthiest outcomes, while people born in October might be at the highest risk for certain diseases. (See chart below for more.)
The scientists confirmed 39 previous findings, put forth by similar studies, relating ailments such as ADHD and asthma and certain birth months. They also found 19 new correlations including 9 types of heart disease such as high rates of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and mitral valve disorder for people born in the month of March, according to the study, the results of which were published last Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
The Columbia team scoured the case histories and records of more than 1.7 million patients from the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center who were born in the last millennium. Then they looked for associations between the months of those patients' birthdays and 1,688 diseases using a new computational algorithm developed for their study.
While the correlation appears, at least in part, due to the fact that "seasonally dependent early developmental mechanisms may play a role in increasing lifetime risk of disease," Columbia researchers say they plan to expand the study beyond New York City's clogged traffic boundaries (assuming they can actually get through the traffic and out of New York City) in hopes of finding more of the why behind the statistics. Specifically, they plan to apply their algorithms to patient records from other parts of the country and world to see if geographic factors and seasonal patterns impact their results.
As the Columbia study mentioned, researchers have found correlations between certain illnesses and birth months before. One study conducted in 2008 by the Center for Asthma Research and Environmental Health at Vanderbilt University found that children born in the fall, a season when homes tend to get more dust mites, could have a 30 percent higher risk of becoming asthmatic. Another study published in 2012 found that children born at the end of the calendar year may have a higher risk of suffering from ADHD.
However, if you fall in one of the less healthy months mentioned in the study, there's no need to wish for the ability to time travel so you can somehow go back and get your parents to hook up earlier in the year. Nicholas Tatonetti, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University's Medical Center and the Data Science Institute who co-authored the study, said these statistics aimed to "uncover new disease risk factors" instead of scare people with October birthdays or convince parents to aim for certain birthdays for their future children.
"It's important not to get overly nervous about these results because even though we found significant associations, the overall disease risk is not that great," Tatonetti said in a Columbia release.
That may be good news if you were born in October, but it's devastating to those of us (like me) with May birthdays. I thought this meant I was some kind of Highlander or Ra's Al Ghul without that annoying Lazarus Pit that probably has to be skimmed more often than a swimming pool in Massachusetts in autumn.