Fact or Fiction: Suicides Increase During the Holiday Season and Winter Months

PREMISE:  It is commonly believed that more people are likely to commit suicide during the holidays and winter months as a result of stress, depression, and/or loneliness.

Fact or Fiction:    FICTION

Contrary to popular belief, the number of suicides do not increase during the holiday season or winter months. In fact, after sorting suicides by month for all years (1999-2010), December ranked as the lowest or second to lowest month for suicide in all 12 years. November also fell in the bottom 5 months for suicide during all 12 years, and February was either lowest or second to lowest for 10 out of 12 years. The number of suicides varied widely during the month of January, and no consistent trend was found.

Suicides were actually most numerous during the late spring and summer months of May, June, July, and August. May appears to be the month with the highest incidence of suicide. May was among the top 3 months for suicide during all 12 years. June was listed in the top 3 for 3 out of 12 years, July for 8 out of 10 years, and August for 6 out of 12 years.

Criminologists and psychologists have followed this phenomenon for decades, and argue that high temperatures may increase discomfort and facilitate disinhibition, aggression and violence, generating an increase in suicidal acts (Anderson, 1989; Kim, Y., Kim, H., & Kim, D., 2011; Page, L., Hajat, S. & Kovats, S. R., 2007).

More Information:

LINK TO EXCEL SPREADSHEET

References

Anderson, 1989; Page, L., Hajat, S. & Kovats, S. R. (2007). Relationship between daily suicide counts and temperature in England and Wales. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 106-112.

Anderson, C. (1989). Temperature and aggression: ubiquitous effects of heat on occurrence of human violence. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 74– 96.

Kim, Y., Kim, H., & Kim, D. (2011). Association between daily environmental temperature and suicide mortality in Korea. Psychiatry Research, 186(2–3), 390-396.

http://WONDER.cdc.gov

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