Christmas holiday triggers of myocardial infarction

Scand Cardiovasc J. 2021 Dec;55(6):340-344. doi: 10.1080/14017431.2021.1983638. Epub 2021 Sep 29.


Objectives: Christmas holidays have been associated with the highest incidence of myocardial infarction (MI). We wanted to assess possible triggers of MI during Christmas. Design: A nationwide, retrospective postal survey with case-control design. All individuals suffering an MI during the Christmas holidays 2018 and 2019 in Sweden were identified through the SWEDEHEART registry and a control group matched in age and gender with chronic coronary syndrome who did not seek medical attention during Christmas were asked for participation. Subjects completed a questionnaire asking them to rate 27 potential MI-triggers as having occurred more or less than usual. Results: A total of 189 patients suffering an MI on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Boxing Day, and 157 patients in the control group responded to the questionnaire, representing response rates of 66% and 62%, respectively. Patients with MI on Christmas experienced more stress (37% vs. 21%, p = .002), depression (21% vs. 11%, p = .024), and worry (26% vs. 10%, p < .001) compared to the control group. The food and sweets consumption was increased in both groups, but to a greater extent in the control group (33% vs. 50%, p = .002 and 32% vs. 43%, p = .031). There were no increases in quarrels, anger, economic worries, or reduced compliance with medication. Conclusions: Patients suffering MI on Christmas holiday experienced higher levels of stress and emotional distress compared to patients with chronic coronary syndrome, possibly contributing to the phenomenon of holiday heart attack. Understanding what factors increase the number of MI on Christmas may help reduce the excess number of MIs and cardiovascular burden.

Keywords: Christmas; Myocardial infarction; trigger.

MeSH terms

  • Holidays*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Myocardial Infarction* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors