How Unlucky is Friday the 13th?

In many western countries, we consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky. In fact, there’s even a phobia of the number 13—triskaidekaphobia. But is Friday the 13th really unluckier than other days?

First, a little background. Though the Friday the 13th slasher series has worldwide appeal, not all cultures consider the day to be particularly unlucky. In fact, in many Spanish-speaking countries it’s Tuesday the 13th that’s considered unlucky. And a number of Asian cultures consider the number 4 to be unlucky—April 4th is considered a particularly ill-fated day.

Most rational people don’t really think bad things are going to happen simply because it’s Friday the 13th. But there’s actual research to back up the fact that there’s nothing especially untoward about today’s date.

Researchers have examined the day’s supposed unluckiness from two different angles:

  • Traffic accidents—are accidents more common? A 1993 study in the annual “humor” edition of the British Medical Journal found “the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent” on the 13th, but that was a very small study. Most subsequent studies have concluded there is no statistically significant risk in traffic accidents on this “unlucky” day. The 2004 study “Females Do Not have More Injury Road Accidents on Friday the 13th” concluded, “In our study, we did not find that either women or men have more injury road accidents on Friday 13th compared to previous and following Fridays.”
  • Stock market—do the markets tank? It seems more likely that stock markets could be affected by Friday the 13th—not because the day itself is unlucky, but because investor beliefs about the superstition could influence their behavior. However, several studies have examined the stock markets’ performance and found not only do markets not do any worse on Friday the 13th, they actually do slightly better.

Despite little firm scientific basis, superstitions like Friday the 13th still a play a powerful role in many cultures. Psychological research suggests individuals who lack control use superstition to seek out order and explanation. But from a scientific perspective, there’s no real reason to fear Friday the 13th will bring you any worse luck than Thursday the 12th…just to be safe, however, you may want to avoid men in masks wielding machetes today.