By Kara Morris
MONDAY, May 15, 2023 (HealthDay News) — While people may assume that suicide is more common in the dark winter months, it actually peaks in the spring and early summer.
Researchers investigating what’s going on have found that suicidal thoughts peak in December, but then it takes a few months to reach a “tipping point”. A new study shows that people are also more likely to end their lives between 4 and 5 in the morning.
“It is well documented that winter is a time when people with mental health issues may experience low mood and depression. In fact, seasonal affective disorder is a recognized issue related to the change in season that affects the mental health of many people,” he says. said study co-author Brian O’Shea. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
It may seem surprising that spring, when someone assumes people’s moods improve, is actually the time of greatest danger, he said in a university press release.
“The reasons for this are complex, but our research shows that suicidal thoughts and moods are worst in December and best in June,” O’Shea said.
He explained that “between these two points, there is an increased risk of suicidal behavior, and we feel that this occurs because gradual improvements in their mood and energy may enable them to plan and engage in a suicide attempt.”
For the study, more than 10,000 people in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom completed questionnaires and tasks about their moods and thoughts about suicide and self-harm over a six-year period.
Researchers created online tasks examining explicit and implicit self-harm thoughts, using direct questions about mood, suicidality, and self-harm. Among the tasks, participants were asked to sort out self-related words in real time using the words death and life.
The respondents were divided into three groups: those who had previously attempted suicide; those with suicidal thoughts or non-suicidal self-harm; and those who have never had a history of self-harm or suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
Over the six years, investigators found an overall increase in thoughts of self-harm. The results showed that the season had an impact on mood and the desire to die, especially in those who had previously attempted suicide.
Explicit suicidal thoughts peaked in December, while implicit (or unconscious) associations of self-harm peaked in February. Both preceded the peak of suicidal behavior in the spring and early summer.
“This study is the first to look at temporal trends around mood and thoughts of self-harm on such a large scale, and really identifies the times when an intervention could be most beneficial,” O’Shea said.
The results of the study were published online May 12 in Translational Psychiatry.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on suicide.
Source: University of Nottingham, press release, 11 May 2023