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Study: Suicide increase during the holidays only a myth

December 13, 2012
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Although many people still believe suicide rates increase during this holiday season more than they do at other times in the year, the Annenberg Public Policy Center has been researching this since 2000 to find out the truth. 

The center has tracked actual daily suicide rates to determine if they are higher during the holiday season.  Based on official suicide deaths in the U.S., researchers found that the months of November, December, and January typically have the lowest daily rates of suicide in the year.  According to a press release from the center, there is a seasonal pattern to suicide rates, however, they found that the spring and summer are usually the highest months in the year. Despite what many believe, those at Annenberg say that the holiday-suicide link is truly a myth.   The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has an opinion on this holiday-suicide myth

The researchers at Annenberg say the problem with making the myth credible is that media content that makes suicide appear more common can encourage vulnerable individuals to consider it. Although there is no direct evidence for such an effect of the holiday myth, other evidence indicates that the media can influence vulnerable people to attempt suicide.

An additional part of their study was to look at news stories about suicide during the holidays and determine those in which the myth was supported, those in which the myth was clearly debunked, and stories in which suicide was said to coincide with the holidays but no causal association was suggested (coincidental).   Although the support had decreased and news was starting to debunk the myth for a large period of time, the news stories supporting the myth begun to rise in 2009 and in the 2011-2012 research, the number of these stories has increased by 35%. 

“The return of the holiday-suicide connection may be related to the fact that the adult (ages 25+) suicide rate has increased in recent years in step with the great recession,” noted APPC’s Dan Romer, who has directed the study since its inception. “With more people affected by suicide, news stories about suicide may be more common over the holidays, bringing the myth back to our attention.”

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