More Suicides Over Holidays? Just a Myth

But people believe it, study says
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2012 3:41 PM CST
More Suicides Over Holidays? Just a Myth
Daily suicides are actually fewer around the holidays.   (Shutterstock)

Perhaps It's a Wonderful Life is to blame. We tend to think of the holiday months as having an elevated suicide rate, and the media pushes that perception—but in fact, it's entirely wrong, researchers say. A University of Pennsylvania study of CDC data on suicide rates between 1999 and 2010 found that November, December, and January have the fewest daily suicides, while the spring and summer months have the most, USA Today reports. The year 2010 saw daily suicides peak at 111.3 in July and sink to 98.2 in December.

In 1999, 77% of media stories on the holidays and suicide wrongly said the rate increased at that time of year. When the Pennsylvania study first emerged, that figure dropped, but last year, it was up to 76% again. And the long-running myth can be dangerous for at-risk people, experts say. "An article that leads them to believe that it's normal for people in their situation to end their life may be just that little nudge that puts them over," says a suicide prevention advocate. It's time for the media to remind us there's hope, he says: "The number of people who positively adapt to life stresses far outweighs the number of people who do not." (More holidays stories.)

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