Actually, It Turns Out That November Is the Cruelest Month


I’ve been wondering why my health collapsed so badly when I turned 55, and now Science™ has provided the answer. It’s because I was born in October, which lags only November for being the net riskiest birth month. Here’s the Washington Post:

Mary Regina Boland, Nicholas Tatonetti and other researchers at the Columbia University Department of Medicine examined records for an incredible 1.75 million patients born between 1900 and 2000 who had been treated at Columbia University Medical Center. Using statistical analysis, they combed through 1,688 different diseases and found 55 that had a correlation with birth month, including ADHD, reproductive performance, asthma, eye sight and ear infections.

The researchers emphasize that other environmental factors, like diet, medical care and exercise, are more likely to influence whether you get a disease. And since these numbers are culled from New York City, they may not be applicable to babies born in other places.

Culled only from New York City, huh? And it was just a massive data mining operation looking for correlations at the 95 percent level? This suggests you’d get 84 correlations just by chance. They got 55.

So….maybe not so impressive. Then again, this is all addressed in the paper, and it’s far too complicated for me to understand. I mean, what the hell is a “multiplicity correction using FDR (α_0.05, n_1688 conditions)”? Beats me. But everything in this paper is “FDR adjusted.” So maybe that means the correlations are legit. Perhaps someone who knows what this means can weigh in in comments.

In any case, if we believe this, it explains why my sister, brother, and mother are all healthy, while I’m a basket case. I was born in the wrong month. But on the plus side, I apparently have a lower than normal risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure. Good to know.

POSTSCRIPT: Everyone gets that I’m just having fun here, right? Honestly, I haven’t the slightest idea of whether this stuff holds water. Still, everyone loves simple charts that put them and their friends in buckets, right?