Death: The Vital of Optimism

Literature and folklore abound with tales of people who cling to life as long as they have "reason for living," and mysteriously die within weeks after they feel that their purpose is accomplished. Now a young sociologist at Johns Hopkins University has suggested that this fictional behavior pattern is well founded in fact. More often than not, accourding to a study by David Phillips, people who are about to die seem to hang on until after a birthday, an election, a religious holiday or another event that they keenly anticipate.

Phillips, 26, who presented his findings to...

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