Did your workplace seem a little deserted today? It may be that a proportion of your colleagues were suffering from a dose of paraskavedekatriaphobia, a specific phobia of Friday the 13th. Look it up on The Phobia List (which is quite diverting in its own right, actually).

A handful of worthy fellows once decided to do some analyses of various data in order to see whether we really should be concerned about this particular convergence of day and date. I’ve just finished reading the very interesting (well, quite interesting) article in which they set out their various findings. The most amusing thing is that this article, far from being gleaned from the depths of the Fortean Times or Sunday Sport, came directly from the austere pages of the British Medical Journal. The next time you’re leafing through, you might care to take a peek at:

Scanlon, J. (1993). Is Friday the 13th bad for your health? British Medical Journal, 307, 1584-1586.

Their findings suggest that between July 1990 and July 1992 there were consistently fewer cars on the Southern section of the M25 on each Friday the 13th relative to those counted on the Fridays beforehand. Given this slight reduction in traffic volume, it is strage that the number of hospital admissions due to road accidents was significantly higher on each Friday 13th than on the preceding Fridays, based on data collected in the South Thames region over a similar period.

What are the possible explanations? Is it a statistical fluke? Does anxiety about Friday 13th affect our driving? Is there some other factor that increases the accident rate without having anything to do with Friday 13th? Or is Friday the 13th just an unlucky day?

Questions, questions. But happily, not the kind over which to lose sleep.

Nighty night.

Explore posts in the same categories: Psychology, Special Occasions, Weird

10 Comments on “Paraskavedekatriaphobia”

  1. Interesting as people seem to have a mindset about Friday the 13th…movies don’t help, eh?
    I think an explanation is that anxiety does affect what happens in our lives. (I specialize in stress management and relaxation techniques.) We’ve been taught “Oh-Friday the 13th – unlucky!” – therein the seed is planted and the blossoming of events begins.

    Personally, I don’t believe in bad luck. Mama was born Friday the 13th and that was a lucky and
    wonderful day for her clan. I celebrate the day! Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. kenny Says:

    I was in a pretty serious road traffic accident on Friday 13th, maybe about 10 years ago now. I’m not superstitious at all and actually consider myself pretty fortunate to not have been injured more than I was.

    As for the statistics, 2 years worth of friday the 13ths does not seem to me to be enough for a statistically valid survey, especially if you are only comparing with one other friday each time. perhaps the following friday had even more accidents and they chose to ignore this as it did not fit with what they wanted?

  3. RYDLP Says:

    Well, besides mixing coffee with green tea and cinamon, all is well on Friday the 13th. I also saw myself driving a little crazy and I was scared that never happens, because I don’t get traffic tickets. Thanks

  4. Wille Says:

    The office certainly was deserted today. Like a ghost town almost.

    Now I know why. 🙂

  5. […] papers. I thought only new papers do that. Interestingly, the phobia for Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia. I don’t even know how to pronounce […]

  6. Doug Says:

    Another little surge in traffic today. A quick look at the Blog Stats indicates that, for reasons unknown, the ‘Logues briefly made it onto the WordPress front page. Nice.

    Marsha – I am inclined to agree that there is something of the ‘self-fulfilling’ prophecy about Friday 13th. I think that you are right that the expectation of calamity can sometimes bring it about.

    I also think that people tend to overestimate the frequency of co-incidences. If you have a traffic accident on any normal day, it tends not to stick in the mind or come up in conversation in quite the same way as an accident occurring on a Friday 13th (as was the case for poor old Kenny). It might be that, say, Wednesday 12ths also see a lot of accidents, but because people have no reason to remember the date it tends not to figure in their memory of the event.

    And yes, Kenny: the data are too few to warrant firm conclusions, although I do think that other similar surveys have been done and have found similar results. Mind you, there is probably a publication bias: surveys which do not show any particular increase in unfortunate events on Friday 13ths are less interesting and are therefore less likely to see the light of day.

  7. Hannah Says:

    Can I just applaud the grammatical correctness of the statement ‘the data are too few’. The recognition of the plural nature of data is not often seen, but it’s appreciated.

  8. Doug Says:

    Thank you. I try. 🙂

  9. J Says:

    Isn’t the correct term for Friday 13th phobics “triskadecaphobia”????


  10. Doug Says:

    No. You are confusing fear of Friday 13th (paraskavedekatriaphobia) with fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia). Easily done.

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