Contrary to popular belief, depressed people are not more likely to attempt suicide around major holidays, new research shows.
The study, by University of Cincinnati Department of Emergency Medicine and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, found that a lower number of suicide attempts by poisoning are made around holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The findings suggest the holidays may actually be protective against suicide attempts, possibly due to the increased family or social support at those times. By contrast, New Year's Day appears to be linked with significantly higher numbers of suicide attempts by overdose.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
"There are multiple studies out showing that there's a worsening suicide epidemic internationally, and numbers for suicide attempts are rising as well,” said researcher Dr. Gillian Beauchamp. "Researchers have observed a seasonality and daily variations in completed suicides, and because of that, it's been suggested that environmental factors and their effect on mood may play a role."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports adult suicide rates have risen every year since 1999, with the fastest increase in people 45 to 64 years old.
For the new study, Beauchamp and colleagues attempted to determine if particular days of the week, months, or holidays were associated with an increased number of suicide attempts by poisoning. They analyzed records in the National Poison Database System from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2010, coded as "suspected suicides."
The results showed 1.06 million attempts during the time period — rising from 198,806 in 2006 to 219,849 in 2010. Researchers also found that, with the exception of New Year's Day, holidays had little effect on suicide attempts. In fact, periods around holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July — had a lower number of recorded attempts. Other holidays measured, but found to be neutral, were Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Memorial Day.
"This is possibly reflective of family or other social support systems which may be more available during holidays," said Beauchamp. "The one exception was New Year's Day, when there was a spike in attempts."SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
Researcher also found higher numbers of suicides at the beginning of the week and the beginning of spring.
"By showing times of the year when counseling services or drug and poison centers would see more demand," Beauchamp added, "we can help hospitals who receive these patients be better prepared for spikes in suicide attempts."