Two new reports challenge the idea, which has been promoted in a series of high-profile studies, that elderly people suffering from serious physical illnesses can prolong their lives just long enough to experience a personally meaningful event, such as a birthday or a religious holiday.
An analysis of California death records from 1985 through 2000, conducted by economist Gary Smith of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., indicates that elderly Asian immigrants don't put off dying until the week after the Harvest Moon Festival, a major annual event for them. That result counters a 1990 study, based on California data from 1960 through 1984. The earlier investigation found that mortality rates of Chinese women at least 75 years of age dipped in the week before the Harvest Moon Festival and rose in the week after.
Smith's data analysis reveals no sign of death postponement before the Harvest Moon Festival for Chinese-, Korean-, and Vietnamese-Americans. This result held,