Contrary to popular belief, major holidays are actually associated with a lower number of suicides, but days in the beginning of the week, and in the start of spring, were linked to more suicide attempts.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) Department of Emergency Medicine and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, are actually associated with a lower number of suicide attempts, suggesting that the increased family or social support structures during the holidays may actually be protective against suicide attempts.
One exception is New Year's Day, which had significantly higher numbers of suicide attempts by overdose.
"There are multiple studies out showing that there's a worsening suicide epidemic internationally, and numbers for suicide attempts are rising as well," co-researcher Dr. Gillian Beauchamp said in a statement. "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."
Suicide rates among adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have risen every year since 1999, with the fastest increase seen in people between the ages of 45 and 64. Researchers conducted the study to determine if certain days of the week, months or holidays were associated with increased number of suicide attempts by poisoning.
They analyzed calls recorded in the National Poison Database System, made between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2010, that were categorized as "suspected suicide." Researchers only included patients who provided a history concerning intentional overdose.
Results of the study showed that there were a total of 1.06 million attempts during the time period of the study, with each year leading to a significant increase in the number of suicide attempts. For example, there were 198,806 suicide attempts in 2006 and 219,849 in 2010.
Researchers compared the number of suicide attempt on various holidays to three control dates. To capture related suicide attempts, researchers included a window of three to seven days around each of the days in the study.
The latest findings show that, with the exception of New Year's Day, holidays had relatively little effect on suicide attempts, and more periods around holidays had a lower number of recorded attempts
Researchers found that Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July were the most protective holidays against suicide attempts and other holidays like Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Memorial Day were found to be more neutral.
"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." The study also revealed that the beginning of the week and the beginning of spring were associated with higher number of suicide attempts.
Researchers said that by studying times when suicide is most likely to occur could lead to a better understanding of when prevention techniques could be best utilized in terms of either counseling patients or staffing crisis centers.
"By showing times of the year when counseling services or drug and poison centers would see more demand we can help hospitals who receive these patients be better prepared for spikes in suicide attempts," Beauchamp said.