clock menu more-arrow no yes

Suicides aren't more common during the holidays

A person sits in dread.
A person sits in dread.
Shutterstock

Every year, Americans hear about the several ways the holiday season is actually more dangerous. While it's true that there are some ways the holidays can pose a risk to your everyday health, it's also true that some of the concerns are overblown.

One of those concerns is suicide. While it's true that mental health issues of any kind should be taken very seriously no matter the time of the year, the idea that suicides increase over the holidays is, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it, "a long perpetuated myth."

In a review of the research, Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll at Indiana University found suicides don't seem to increase before, during, or after the holidays in the US or around the world. Furthermore, people aren't more likely to commit suicide during the dark winter months.

average daily suicide rate per month

"It completely goes against what we would predict," Vreeman told CNN. "There are peaks of suicide in the warmer months, and they are fewer in the winter. It's true around the world, which is an interesting thing to think about."

Vreeman and Carroll caution that this doesn't in any way mean that suicides don't happen during the holiday season — and concerns with suicidal thoughts should still be taken very seriously. They clarify, "The epidemiological evidence just does not support that the holidays are a time of increased risk."

Some experts see this myth as a serious public health concern. Dan Romer at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania wrote, "The problem with making the myth credible is that media content that makes suicide appear more common can encourage vulnerable individuals to consider it. Although we have no direct evidence for such an effect of the holiday myth, other evidence indicates that the media can influence vulnerable people to attempt suicide. This has led various public health agencies and organizations to encourage more accurate reporting about suicide by the news media (see www.reportingonsuicide.org)."


Correction: The chart in this post originally claimed to show the average number of suicides per month. It actually shows the average daily suicide rate per month.

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.