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It’s a myth that there are more suicides around the holidays

Just the other day, I heard someone on the radio declare that suicides are more common around Christmastime.

But it’s not true, as we see HERE:

While the popular assumption is that holidays are a risk factor for suicide, people aren’t really any more likely to kill themselves around the holidays than any other time of year…[I]n a study from the United States, the number of suicides within a 35-year period did not increase before, during or after holidays – including birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, or the Fourth of July…

Interestingly, in the United States, psychiatric visits actually decrease before Christmas and increase again afterwards.  Researchers speculated that this may actually reflect increased emotional and social support during holidays. The United States Centers for Disease Control concluded that holidays do not increase the risk for suicide…

Furthermore, people are not more likely to commit suicide during the heights of winter darkness and doldrums.  Around the world, suicides peak in warmer months and are actually at their lowest in the winter.  This pattern was reported as early as 1897 by the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who described how European “suicide reaches its maximum during the fine season, when nature is most smiling and the temperature mildest.” In Finland, a country of long and dark winters, suicides peak in autumn, and are actually at their very lowest in the winter. In a 30-year study of suicides in Hungary between 1970 and 2000, researchers again found peaks of suicide in the summer and the lowest rate of suicides in the winter.  Studies of suicide rates from India also reveal peaks in April and May.  Studies from the United States reflect this same pattern, with lower rates in November and December than in typically warmer months.

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4 Comments

  1. Luke Fredrickson

    Did the researchers analyze the data for the winters following a presidential election?

    This year, there seem to be quite a few wingnuts ready to sacrifice themselves by driving over the “fiscal cliff” like Thelma and Louise. Too bad that cliff is only a few inches high – about as tall as the average squirrel.

  2. Luke – If you’re not worried about the cliff, you can pay for the increases in my income taxes.

    And I guess another recession and another rebound to over 9% unemployment is nothing to worry about either.

  3. Luke isn’t worried about the fiscal cliff or the deficit/debt for that matter. He thinks it’s a squirrel. I thought liberals cared about what happens to the average man on the street?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/11/13/164960245/with-or-without-fiscal-cliff-cuts-deficit-looms-large

    Virtually everyone agrees that allowing the nation to fall off the fiscal cliff would be a bad thing.
    Government programs would be cut, taxes would rise significantly on a majority of Americans, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, the economy would fall back into recession.
    But get this: Even if all of those things happen, there would still be a budget deficit.
    When it comes to describing the fiscal cliff — that combination of tax increases and spending cuts that would automatically begin in January unless Congress and the president step in — federal budget guru Stan Collender turns to superlatives.

    Expiration of tax cuts that were started under President George W. Bush “would clearly constitute one of the biggest tax increases ever imposed on taxpayers in American history,” says Collender, who works at Qorvis Communications.

    According to one analysis, ending the Bush-era tax cuts would cost the average household $3,500 a year.
    And then there’s the other side of the fiscal cliff: what’s known as sequestration — about $110 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts that would hit everything from schools to weapons systems every year for the next decade.
    “That would be the single largest one-year reduction, nominal reduction, in the deficit in American history,” says Collender.
    This would take a significant bite out of what would be a $1 trillion deficit. Still, the government would spend more than it takes in.
    The Congressional Budget Office projects a $641 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1 — and that’s assuming the fiscal cliff actually happens and is in effect for three-fourths of the fiscal year.
    It’s “a big, big, big, big, big number,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
    But here’s the thing — you’d be hard-pressed to find a politician or economist or even deficit hawk like MacGuineas who thinks letting the nation go over the fiscal cliff is a good idea.
    “It’s true that it’s done in the absolute wrong way, but it’s still not even big enough to start to tackle the fiscal problems that we have,” MacGuineas says.
    Now let’s imagine Congress wants to extend the tax cuts: You can add nearly $250 billion to the deficit for this fiscal year. Do that for a decade and it will add more than $5 trillion in debt.
    You might be thinking this could be solved by letting taxes go up on those making more than $250,000 per year.
    Think again. That only shaves about 20 percent off the bill.
    Avoid the painful cuts of the sequester — you can add more than $1 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
    And now you’re talking about a big, big, big, big, big number.

  4. Craig Knauss

    Getting back to the real subject – holiday suicides:

    I’m not sure of your study, Pat. I personally know of two that occurred during the Christmas – New Year holidays. One was a high school freshman who shot himself with one of the family’s unlocked guns. (That was the most gut-wrenching funeral I’ve ever attended.) The other was a professional where I worked. He hanged himself after talking to his (estranged?) wife. He was living in SE Washington and she was living in Chattanooga, TN.

    BTW doc, think about how much the Reagan debt has cost me all these years. Then add to that GWB’s wild spending. Also, most analyses that I’ve seen put the average household tax increase at about $2500. But that doesn’t sound as ominous as $3500 accompanied with the claim of the “biggest tax increase” in history.

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