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Soc Sci Med. 2012 Mar;74(5):775-82. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.018. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

A 'beautiful death': mortality, death, and holidays in a Mexican municipality.

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  • 1Centre for Health Systems Research, National Institute of Public Health, 62100 Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

Abstract

Several studies have reported increased mortality during holidays. Using a cultural epidemiological, sequential mixed-methods approach, this study explored holiday-related trends using mortality data from Yautepec (Morelos, Mexico) collected between 1986 and 2008 (N=5027 deaths). This analysis found that mortality increased on Christmas Day and All Saints' Day. Mortality increased on Candlemas Day among women, and increased on New Year's Day among men. More deaths caused by cardiovascular disease among women and traumatic injuries among men occurred during holidays than in non-holiday periods. To ascertain the elements comprising the health/illness/death process in the context of a holiday in this municipality, we conducted semi-structured interviews in March and April 2009 with relatives of seven individuals who had died during holidays in the previous 4 years (N=11); data from these interviews were analyzed from a grounded theory perspective to ascertain common conceptual themes. The "beautiful death" emerged as the main concept in the interpretation of death; this concept was related to the expectation of a good death and the particularly special nature of death during a holiday because of the involvement of religious entities, such as God, the Virgin Mary, and/or a saint, at the moment of death. Quantitative and qualitative results provided information about the important effects of holidays, culture, and religious belief on mortality patterns within a Mexican context, and contributed to a better understanding of the relationships among mortality, the nature of death, and holidays. Our results suggest that, in the studied region, death can be interpreted as a "beautiful process". More research is needed to explore this process in other similar contexts and to address topics related to the care and attention given the dying person and the expectation of a good death.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID:
22296949
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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