Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Seasonal variation and meteotropism in suicide: clinical relevance of findings and implications for research

  • A. Preti (a1)

Abstract

Seasonal asymmetry in yearly suicide occurrence is a long-observed phenomenon in psychiatric, suicidological and sociological research, and the effects of seasonal factors on suicidal behaviour have been the focus of a number of earlier studies. Taking into account limitations of data and methods, these studies have in general favoured interpretations based on psychosocial factors. Recent studies have challenged the widely held notion that seasonal effects on suicide are not influenced by age, gender or the circumstances of the act. The suicides committed with violent methods have been shown to follow clearer seasonal patterns than suicides by less violent methods, and differences have been found between male and female cycles of occurrence. The seasonal occurrence of suicides has also been found to differ significantly between the young and the elderly. The use of inappropriate statistics or age- and gender-biased samples may have hidden a seasonal component in some previous studies on attempted suicide. The absence of seasonality in earlier studies on attempted suicide was interpreted as depending upon the minor relevance of psychiatric and biological factors in non-fatal self-harm. However, recent studies have reported clear seasonality in attempted suicide samples, with older people showing greater seasonal effect. Recent literature after 1985 on seasonal variation and weather or climate influence in attempted and completed suicide is reviewed. Suggestions for research and the development of more effective preventative strategies are offered.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Antonio Preti MD, Genneruxi Medical Center via Costantinopoli 42, I-09129, Cagliari, Italy. Tel: + 9 70 480922; E-mail: apreti@tin.it

References

Hide All
1.Kevan, S.Perspective on season of suicide: a review. Soc Sci Med 1980;14:369387.
2.Massing, W, Angermeyer, M C.The monthly and weekly distribution of suicide. Soc Sci Med 1985;21:433441.
3.Chew, KSY, McCleary, R.The spring peak in suicides: a cross-national analysis. Soc Sci Med 1995;40:223230.
4.Morselli, E. (1879). Il Suicidio. Milano[Suicide. An essay on comparative statistics]. London: Kegan Paul, 1881.
5.Durkheim, E.Le suicide. New York: The Free Press, 18971951.
6.Esquirol, E.Des maladies mentales considerations sous les rapports medical, hygienique et medicolegal[Mental maladies: treatise on insanity]. In: Hunt, EK, ed. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 18381845.
7.Tanney, BL.Mental disorders, psychiatric patients and suicide. In: Maris, RW, Berman, AL, Maltsberger, JT, Yufit, RI, eds. Assessment and prediction of suicide. New York: Guilford Press, 1992: 277320.
8.Eastwood, MR, Peacocke, J.Seasonal patterns of suicide, depression and electroconvulsive therapy. Br J Psychiatry 1976;129:472475.
9.Parker, G, Walter, SD.Seasonal variation in depressive disorders and suicidal deaths in New South Wales. Br J Psychiatry 1982;140:626632.
10.Maes, M, Meltzer, HY, Suy, E, De Meyer, F.Seasonality in severity of depression: relationships to suicide and homicide occurrence. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1993;88:156161.
11.Wehr, TA, Rosenthal, NE.Seasonality and affective illness. Am J Psychiatry 1989;146:829839.
12.Retamal, P, Humphreys, D.Occurrence of suicide and seasonal variation. Rev Saude Publica 1998;32:408412.
13.Preti, A, Miotto, P, De Coppi, M.Season and suicide: recent findings from Italy. Crisis 2000;21:5970.
14.Meares, R, Mendelsohn, FAO, Milgrom-Friedman, J.A sex difference in the seasonal variation of suicide rate: a single cycle for men, two cycles for women. Br J Psychiatry 1981;138:321325.
15.Nšyhš, S.Autumn incidence of suicides re-examined: data from Finland by sex, age and occupation. Br J Psychiatry 1982;141:512517.
16.Nšyhš, S.The bi-seasonal incidence of some suicides. Experience from Finland by marital status, 1961–76. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1983;67:3242.
17.Lester, D, Frank, ML.Sex differences in the seasonal distribution of suicides. Br J Psychiatry 1988;153:115117.
18.Micciolo, R, Zimmermann-Tansella, C, Williams, P, Tansella, M.Seasonal variation in suicide: is there a sex difference? Psychol Med 1989;19:199203.
19.Flisher, AJ, Parry, CDH, Bradshaw, D, Juritz, JM.Seasonal variation of suicide in South Africa. Psychiatr Res 1997;66:1322.
20.Ho, T-P, Chao, A, Yip, P.Seasonal variation in suicides re-examined: no sex difference in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1997;95:2631.
21.Yip, PSF, Chao, A, Ho, TP.A re-examination of seasonal variation in suicides in Australia and New Zealand. J Affect Disord 1998;47:141150.
22.Frank, ML, Lester, D.Geophysical variables and behaviour: LI. Temporal variation of suicide in teens and young adults. Percept Motor Skills 1988;67:586.
23.McCleary, R, Chew, KSY, Hellsten, JJ, Flynn-Bransford, M.Age- and sex-specific cycles in United States suicides, 1973–85. Am J Public Health 1991;81:14941497.
24.Preti, A, Miotto, P.Seasonality in suicides: the influence of suicide method, gender and age on suicide distribution in Italy. Psychiatr Res 1998;81:219231.
25.Lester, D.Seasonal variation in suicide and the method used. Percept Motor Skills 1999;89:160.
26.Linkowski, P, Martin, F, De Maertelaer, V.Effect of some climatic factors on violent and non-violent suicides in Belgium. J Affect Disord 1992;25:161166.
27.Maes, M, De Meyer, F, Thompson, P, Peeters, D, Cosyns, P.Synchronised annual rhythms in violent suicide rate, ambient temperature and the light–dark span. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1994;90:391396.
28.Maes, M, Scharpe, S, Verkerk, Ret al. Seasonal variation in plasma L-tryptophan availability in healthy volunteers. Relationships to violent suicide occurrence. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1995;52:937946.
29.Asberg, M, Schalling, D, Traskman-Bendz, L, Wagner, A.Psychobiology of suicide, impulsivity, and related phenomena. In: Meltzer, HY, ed. Psychopharmacology: the third generation of progress. New York: Raven Press, 1987: 655668.
30.Maes, M, Scharpe, S, D'Hondt, Pet al. Biochemical, metabolic and immune correlates of seasonal variation in violent suicide: a chronoepidemiologic study. Eur Psychiatry 1996;11:2123.
31.Hakko, H, R'sanen, P, Tiihonen, J . Seasonal variation in suicide occurrence in Finland. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1998;98:9297.
32.Hakko, H, R'sanen, P, Tiihonen, J . Secular trends in the rates and seasonality of violent and non-violent suicide occurrences in Finland during 1980–95. J Affect Disord 1998;50:4954.
33.Jessen, G, Steffensen, P, Jensen, BF.Seasons and meteorological factors in suicidal behaviour. Arch Suicide Res 1998;4:263280.
34.Rihmer, Z, Rutz, W, Pihlgren, H, Pestality, P.Decreasing tendency of seasonality in suicide may indicate lowering rate of depressive suicides in the population. Psychiatr Res 1998;81:233240.
35.Yip, P, Chao, A, Chiu, C.Seasonal variation in suicides: diminished or vanished. Br J Psychiatry 2000;177:366369.
36.Minors, DS, Waterhouse, JM.Mathematical and statistical analysis of circadian rhythms. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1988;13:443464.
37.Nelson, W, Tong, YL, Lee, J-K, Halberg, F.Methods for cosinor-rhythmometry. Chronobiologia 1979;6:305323.
38.Redfern, PH, Waterhouse, JM, Minors, DS.Circadian rhythms: principles and measurement. Pharmacol Ther 1991;49:311327.
39.Pocock, J.Harmonic analysis applied to seasonal variations in sickness absence. Appl Statistics 1974;23:103120.
40.Rogerson, PA.A generalization of Hewitt's test for seasonality. Int J Epidemiol 1996;25:644648.
41.Rocchi, MBL, Perlini, C.Intraseasonal pattern in the time distribution of suicides. Crisis 2000;22:9597.
42.Rocchi, MBL, Ghiandoni. A circular statistics tool for the preliminary identification of unknown periods in biological rhythms: an application. Biol Rhythms Res 1999;30:563572.
43.Marion, SA, Agbayewa, MO, Wiggins, S.The effect of season and weather on suicide rates in the elderly in British Columbia. Can J Public Health 1999;90:418422.
44.Preti, A, Miotto, P.Influence of method on seasonal distribution of attempted suicides in Italy. Neuropsychobiology 2000;41:6272.
45.Kreitman, N.Suicide and parasuicide. In: Kendell, RE, Zealley, AK, eds. Companion to psychiatric studies. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1983: 396411.
46.Chiu, LPW.Do weather, day of the week, and address affect the rate of attempted suicide in Hong Kong? Soc Psychiatr Psychiatric Epidemiol 1988;23:229235.
47.Diekstra, RFW, Garnefski, N.On the nature, magnitude, and causality of suicidal behaviours: an international perspective. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1995;25:3657.
48.Murphy, GE, Wetzel, RD.The lifetime risk of suicide in alcoholism. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1990;47:383392.
49.Masterton, G.Monthly and seasonal variation in parasuicide: a sex difference. Br J Psychiatry 1991;158:155157.
50.Barker, A, Hawton, K, Fagg, J, Jennison, C.Seasonal and weather factors in parasuicide. Br J Psychiatry 1994;165:375380.
51.Christoffel, KK, Marcus, D, Sageman, S, Bennett, S.Adolescent suicide and suicide attempts. Pediatr Emerg Care 1988;4:3240.
52.Nakamura, JW, McLeod, CR, McDermott, JF.Temporal variation in adolescent suicide attempts. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1994;24:343349.
53.Iancu, I, Laufer, N, Dannon, PN, Zohar-Kadouch, R, Apter, A, Zohar, J.A general hospital study of attempted suicide in adolescence: age and method of attempt. Israel J Psychiatry Related Sci 1997;34:228234.
54.Jessen, G, Andersen, K, Arensman, Eet al. Temporal fluctuations and seasonality in attempted suicide in Europe. Arch Suicide Res 1999;5:5769.
55.Pokorny, AD.Suicide and weather. Arch Environ Health 1966;13:255256.
56.Dixon, KW, Shulman, MD.A statistical investigation into the relationship between meteorological parameters and suicide. Int J Biometeorol 1983;27:93105.
57.Souetre, E, Salvati, E, Belugou, J L, Douillet, P, Braccini, T, Darcourt, G.Seasonality of suicides: environmental, sociological and biological covariations. J Affect Disord 1987;13:215225.
58.Salib, E, Gray, N.Weather conditions and fatal self-harm in North Cheshire 1989–93. Br J Psychiatry 1997;178:473477.
59.Wang, YT, Wang, D, Wang, XY.Suicide and meteorological factors in Huhhot, Inner Mongolia. Crisis 1997;18:115117.
60.Breuer, H-WM, Breuer, J, Fischbach-Breuer, BR.Social, toxicological and meteorological data on suicide attempts. Eur Arch Psychiatry Neurol Sci 1986;235:367370.
61.Bouma, JJ, Tromp, SW.Daily, monthly and yearly fluctuations in the total number of suicides and suicide attempts in the western part of Netherlands. J Interdisciplinary Cycle Res 1972;3:269270.
62.Ellner, M.Research of international suicide. Int J Social Psychiatry 1977;23:187194.
63.Rotton, J.Determinism redux. Climate and cultural correlates of violence. Environ Behav 1986;18:346368.
64.Preti, A.The influence of climate on suicidal behaviour in Italy. Psychiatr Res 1998;78:919.
65.De Leo, D, Conforti, D, Carollo, G.A century of suicide in Italy: a comparison between the old and the young. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1997;27:239249.
66.Lyons, M.Observable and subjective factors associated with attempted suicide in later life. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1985;15:168183.
67.Heikkinen, M, Aro, H, Lonnqvist, J.Life events and social support in suicide. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1993;23:343358.
68.Micciolo, R, Williams, P, Zimmermann-Tansella, CH, Tansella, M.Geographical and urban–rural variation in the seasonality of suicide: some further evidence. J Affect Disord 1991;21:3943.
69.Bianco, G, D'Alessandro, G, Tarquini, E, Rossi, G, Mazzoccoli, G.Epidemiology and chronorhythmicity of recurrences of attempted suicide. Rec Proggr Med 1998;89:114117.
70.De Maio, D, Carandente, F, Riva, C.Evaluation of circadian, circaseptan, and circannual periodicity of attempted suicides. Chronobiologia 1982;9:185193.
71.Altamura, C, Vangastel, A, Pioli, R, Mannu, P, Maes, M.Seasonal and circadian rhythms in suicide in Cagliari, Italy. J Affect Disord 1999;53:7785.
72.Lombroso, C.Pensiero e meteore. Studi di un alienista[Mind and meteors. Studies of an alienist]. Milano: Dumolard, 1978.
73.Henriksson, MM, Aro, HM, Marttunen, MJet al. Mental disorders and comorbidity in suicide. Am J Psychiatry 1993;150:935940.
74.Isometsa, ET, Henriksson, MM, Aro, HM, Lonnqvist, JK.Suicide and bipolar disorder in Finland. Am J Psychiatry 1994;151:10201024.
75.Faedda, GL, Tondo, L, Teicher, MH, Baldessarini, RJ, Gelbard, HA, Floris, GF.Seasonal mood disorders: pattern of seasonal recurrence in mania and depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1993;50:1723.
76.Preti, A.The influence of seasonal change on suicidal behaviour in Italy. J Affect Disord 1997;44:123130.
77.Zhang, J.Suicides in Beijing, China, 1992–93. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1996;26:175180.
78.Brewerton, TD.Seasonal variation of serotonin function in humans: research and clinical implications. Ann Clin Psychiatry 1989;1:153164.
79.Mann, JJ.Violence and aggression. In: Psychopharmacology: the fourth generation of progress. Bloom, FE, Kupfer, DJ, eds. New York: Raven Press, 1995: 19191928.
80.Apter, A, Kotler, M, Sevy, Set al. Correlates of risk of suicide in violent and non-violent psychiatric patients. Am J Psychiatry 1991;148:883887.
81.Horesh, N, Rolnick, T, Iancu, I, Dannon, P, Lepkifker, E, Apter, A, Kotler, M.Anger, impulsivity and suicide risk. Psychother Psychosom 1997;66:9296.
82.Goodwin, FK, Jamison, KR.Manic-depressive illness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
83.Beautrais, AL, Joyce, PR, Mulder, RT, Fergusson, DM, Deavoll, BJ, Nightingale, SK.Prevalence and comorbidity of mental disorders in persons making serious suicide attempts: a case–control study. Am J Psychiatry 1996;153:10091014.
84.Gabennesch, H.When promises fail. A theory of temporal fluctuations in suicide. Social Forces 1988;67:129145.
85.Shneidman, ES.Suicide as psychache. J Nerv Ment Dis 1993;181:145147.
86.Stack, S.Temporal disappointment, homicide and suicide: an analysis of nonwhites and whites. Sociol Focus 1995;28:313328.
87.Jessen, G, Jensen, BF.Postponed suicide death? Suicides around birthdays and major public holidays. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1999;29:272283.
88.Jessen, G, Jensen, BF, Arensman, Eet al. Attempted suicide and major public holidays in Europe: findings from the WHO/EURO multicentre study on parasuicide. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1999;99:412418.
89.Granberg, D, Westerberg, C.On abandoning life when it is least difficult. Social Biol 1999;46:5462.
90.Chew, KSY, McCleary, R.A life course theory of suicide risk. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1994;24:234244.
91.Nisbet, PA.Protective factors for suicidal black females. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1996;26:325341.
92.Schmidtke, A, Weinacker Apter, B, Batt, Aet al. Suicide rates in the world. Update Arch Suicide Res 1999;5:8189.
93.Lester, D.The effectiveness of suicide prevention centers. Suicide Life Threat Behav 1993;23:263267.
94.De Leo, D, Carollo, G, Dello Buono, M.Lower suicide rates associated with a Tele-Help/Tele-Check service for the elderly at home. Am J Psychiatry 1995;152: 632634.
95.Voracek, M, Sonneck, G . Telephonic service utilization in a crisis intervention centre: some findings, similar to temporal variation in suicides. Arch Suicide Res 1999;5: 125139.
96.Coccaro, EF, Siever, LJ, Klar, HMet al. Serotonergic studies in patients with affective and personality disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1989;46:587599.
97.Virkkunen, M, Kalio, E, Rawlings, Ret al. Personality profiles and state aggressiveness in Finnish alcoholic, violent offenders, fire setters, and healthy volunteers. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1994;46:587599.
98.Sonne, SC, Brady, KT.Substance abuse and bipolar comorbidity. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1999;22:609627.
99.Tondo, L, Baldessarini, RJ, Hennen, Jet al. Suicide attempts in major affective disorder patients with comorbid substance abuse disorders. J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60:6369.
100.Poikolainen, K . Heavy alcohol use and seasonal variation of suicide rates. Psychiatr Social Sci 1982;2:115117.
101.Kaye, W, Gendall, K, Strober, M.Serotonin neuronal function and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor treatment in anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Biol Psychiatry 1998;44:825838.
102.Kondrichin, SV, Lester, D.Suicide in Belarus. Crisis 1998;19:167171.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed