Are People More Likely to Commit Suicide During the Christmas Holiday?

Sad Snowman
Sad Snowman, Image Courtesy of Simon Howden, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite the common belief that people are more likely to kill themselves over the Christmas holiday, evidence from a number of studies indicates that suicide rates are the same or lower than average at Christmastime.

The Christmas-suicide myth arose because it makes intuitive sense that people who are alone and depressed during a holiday associated with family togetherness are more likely to focus on what they lack and be pushed over the edge as a result. However, many studies have shown that suicide rates do not significantly increase over the Christmas holidays, and that psychiatric admissions to hospitals are actually lower in the week or two preceding Christmas. One study did find that suicide was more likely on New Year’s Day, perhaps because some people become depressed at having to leave the celebration behind and return to work.

Why are suicide rates and psychiatric admissions lower during the holidays? Studies have found that suicide rates are also lower on the weekends (the highest incidence occurs early in the work week). Given that social interaction tends to be higher on weekends and holidays, it is possible that socializing has a protective effect, preventing people from dwelling on gloomy thoughts and making them feel loved and supported. It is also possible that those who find their work stressful are more likely to commit suicide on workdays.

References:

    • Rudis, J. (2008). True or False: Depression and Suicide Rates Rise During the Holiday Season? Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. BIDMC.org.
    • Snopes. (2010). Unhappy Holidays. Snopes.com.