Opinion: Dangerous payday

POSTED: 07/5/11 12:58 PM

Many people are always longing for that special day in the month to arrive: payday. But they may want to think again about how much reason this day is for a celebration, because American research suggest that people run an increased risk to die in the days after they have been paid.

William Evans and Timothy Moore, two economists who work at the University of Maryland, researched the issue and concluded that the mortality rate on the day people receive their paycheck is one percent higher than during the rest of the month. The first few days after payday also show a higher mortality rate.

Salaries are killing us, the researcher say. They survey included several different groups, like soldiers and pensioners. In each group there were more deaths the day after they received their money.

Maybe people spend their pay immediately on drugs or alcohol. Evans and Moore acknowledge that this explains part of the phenomenon. “But it is not the most significant cause. Because people who just received their salary for instance go in their car to a store to buy something, they run an increased risk of getting involved in a traffic accident or of getting a heart attack.” The higher mortality rate is therefore linked to higher activity levels.

Evans and Moore (who proved in their book Freakonomics that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns) pulled up data over a 33-year period – from 1973 to 2006. They were amazed to discover that over time there is hardly any change in the link between payday and death. The economic growth and the introduction of the credit card had for instance no effect on the trend.

Evans and Moore claim that the results apply to young and old, rich and poor. But there are regional differences. Areas with large military bases have a higher mortality rate. “The chance to die there after you have received your salary is ten percent higher. This is because a military base is usually home to a lot of young people,” the economists say.

St. Maarten only has one Coast Guard cutter and no military base, so that is something to be grateful for. On top, Justice Minister Duncan wants to get rid of the Coast Guard. Payday in St. Maarten will therefore remain relatively safe, but we’ll let you know when we spot a change that gives reason for concern.


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