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The Iniesta Generation: Does Sporting Success Affect Birth Rate?

FIFA Club World Cup has just passed and Christmas holiday is coming. When soccer fans are cheering for their favorite teams and when lovers are whispering love words, what are scientists doing?

Of course, they are thinking about life. Specifically speaking, Spanish researchers are thinking about how sporting success can affect birth rate. They published their results on British Medical Journal (BMJ) in Christmas and reminded people with the Barcelona story – keep in mind of the “Christmas effect” and sweet Christmas holiday might bring a dramatic increase in September’s birth rate next year.

On May 6, 2009, Iniesta scored a last minute goal against Chelsea FC, putting Footbal Club Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final. Although several of the referee’s judges were controversial, it was the best day for Barcelona fans. Eventually, Barcelona defeat Manchester United and won the championship – this is not the most important thing – the point is, nine month after the event, February 2010, Slosones and Bages, where residents were mostly Barcelona fans, reported a significant increase in birth rate: the local media broadcast claimed a 45% increase and babies born during this period were called “the Iniesta generation”.

 Iniesta

Andres Iniesta and his family. *Image source:Jesus Montesinos, et al. (2013) BMJ.

Iniesta’s one last-minute goal can result in birth of so many babies? Scientists collected birth data from two hospitals in Bages, investigated the birth rate in February 2010 and analyzed the data using the 60-month data from January 2007 to December 2011 as a comparison. The results suggests that although the 45% increase is proved to be an exaggeration, the birth rate of February 2010 did increase significantly by 16% compared with previous and later periods.

Number of births per month

Number of births per month from January 2007 to December 2011. The green line shows the number of births each month; The red dash line shows trend of series; The green box shows the number of births in February 2010; The white boxes show the number of births in February in other years. *Image source: Jesus Montesinos, et al. (2013) BMJ.

However, other victories don’t lead to such significant change in birth rates. Although Barcelona won the La Liga champion in August 2009 and Spain national team won the World Cup in December 2012, researchers found that in the second half of 2010, the birth rate in survey area actually decreased slightly. The researchers noted that the decrease might be due to economic crisis in Spain leading to decrease in “rational birth”, which offset the “passion birth” upon sporting success.

Interestingly, the researchers didn’t reach to an agreement themselves. Some major researchers are Barcelona fans and they believe that the Iniesta’s last-minute goal is the culprit for the birth rate increase. Some other researchers are not Barcelona fans, and they collected date from another organization in Barcelona, however, they were unable to reproduce the results using the same method and model. The researchers noted that to verify their hypothesis, it’s better to ask Iniesta to replicate his intervention. “Certainly, this method requires a prohibitively high cost, not to mention the harm to the reference group (Chelsea).”

No matter you are a fan of a team or not, you will have chance to have a lot of happy moments in your life. The result of this study suggests that human emotions can largely affect demographic swings in populations and national or regional events can reduce the weight of reason and increase the weight of passion. So, just have fun during festivals and big events, but pay attention to your own birth plan!

Source:Jesus Montesinos, et al. Barcelona baby boom: does sporting success affect birth rate? BMJ. 2013;347:f7387 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f7387

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