In England, Suicides Spike on New Year’s Day - Pacific Standard

In England, Suicides Spike on New Year’s Day

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A time to celebrate — and keep an eye on vulnerable acquaintances.

By Tom Jacobs

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(Photo: Milind Alvares/Flickr)

New Year’s Day is fast approaching, and, for many people, that symbolizes hope, new beginnings, fresh opportunities.

But for too many others, the idea of facing yet another year is apparently unbearable.

A study published earlier this year finds that, in England, suicides peak on January 1st.

“In the general population, New Year’s Day was associated with a 40 percent increase in suicide risk compared to the rest of the year,” reports a research team led by Brendan Cavanagh and Saied Ibrahim of the University of Manchester. Its study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Using government information, the researchers analyzed data on all suicide deaths in England from 1997 through 2012. They paid special attention to seasonal trends and holidays. They found the number of suicides peaked in the spring and then gradually fell through the rest of the year.

The days with the most and fewest suicides were both in the holiday season. For the general population, the lowest suicide rate was on Christmas Day, December 25th, while the highest was on January 1st. (The number of suicides did not significantly increase or decrease on any of the other holidays they looked at, including Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.)

“Risk reduction was found to be more pronounced around Christmas in women than men,” they report. “This could be because women value social contact, and readily accept guidance and consultation more than men, who may perceive assistance and help as a form of weakness.”

The spike in suicides on New Year’s Day may be due, at least in part, to the fact it represents “the point of transition between one time period and another,” they write. The start of a new week is a similar (if less dramatic) transition point, and there are more suicides on Monday than any other day of the week.

“Facing up to a new week, or a new year, ahead could be a time when people are especially vulnerable,” they write.

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