As we approach the colder months, it’s hard not to wonder how people managed in the time before electric heaters and puffy insulated coats. Heck, it’s hard for me to imagine winter without accessibility to warm pumpkin spice lattes; a treat in which I spare no snobbery in airing my grievances about the 20 seconds of discomfort I endure as my hand meets the cold air while I reach from my car window to grab my festively decorated paper cup filled with hot, sugary, overpriced liquid from the drive-thru barista. So, it’s no surprise to me that winter is the deadliest season, because the thought of surviving the chilly months without such comforts as lounging by fireplace in fuzzy socks while streaming Netflix sounds like a pretty fatal blow. GIVE ME COZY REFUGE OR GIVE ME DEATH, am I right?!?
For centuries, statistics have shown that more people die during the winter season than any other, but a recent paper written by Neil Cummins of the London School of Economics has reported that this wasn’t always the case. Cummins did some deep investigative research into the death records of 1.3 million European nobles dating all the way back to the 11th century, and discovered that the deadly seasons were actually reversed in those days, with a reported 118 deaths in summer and 100 in winter. It went on like that for a while, with the ratio peaking to 153 summer deaths in the 14th century, before gradually shifting until the summer death rates fell below 100 and winter claimed more casualties. Summer deaths dropped to 89 during the 17th century, and from then on, winter has steadily reigned as the season of death.
According to historical evidence, the prevalence of summer deaths between the 1100’s and the 1700’s was likely the result of two major factors: warfare and plague. Medieval nobles commonly engaged in war during the warmer seasons, because, obviously, nobody wants to battle with mittens on. Rats, which carried disease-ridden fleas, were also more likely to galavant around town in the summer time, acting as little plague-spreading Johnny Appleseeds. In the 14th century alone, the Black Plague wiped out about one-third of the European population. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the summer really became the safest season to live, after Europe eradicated plague outbreaks and organized professional soldiers for war.
So, perhaps the advancements in civilization have allowed us to compare the survival rates of the cold and warm seasons on a clearer scale. When you put aside all the ways to die that don’t have anything to do with the weather, like homicide and freak accidents, then you can look at the bare essential differences that play a role in our ability to thrive. But, that’s sort of impossible to do, because even freak accidents and homicides could be seasonally influenced. For example, a freak accident while skiing could lead to death (R.I.P. Sonny Bono), and someone suffering from seasonal depression could become unhinged and go on a murder spree (probably me, this year, if my neighbor parks in the spot I shoveled snow from, again). In both cases, the clear culprit is Old Man Winter, and I think it’s high time someone lock that psycho up. We have all had enough of his maniacal snow storms and circulatory-defying wind chills, and I, for one, am tired of placating to his feelings. There’s no shortage of old white male villains in today’s world, so let’s just follow my lead and say what we’ve all been thinking for years: BYE FROSTY.