Some news media stories still inaccurately link suicide with the holiday season

Share of reports tales mentioning each the vacation season and suicide (in a non-coincidental means) that assist or debunk the holiday-suicide fable. Tales printed in the course of the vacation season from 1999-2022. Supply: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart. Credit score: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart

The vacation-suicide fable, the false declare that the suicide charge rises in the course of the year-end vacation season, continued in some information protection by way of the 2021-22 holidays, in line with U.S. media knowledge collected and analyzed by the Annenberg Public Coverage Heart (APPC) of the College of Pennsylvania.

In reality, though the U.S. suicide charge elevated in 2021 after two years of declines, the common day by day suicide charge in the course of the vacation months remained among the many decrease charges of the 12 months.

APPC’s media evaluation, which relies on newspaper tales printed over the 2021-22 vacation season, discovered that somewhat greater than half of the tales that straight mentioned the vacations and the suicide charge supported the false fable, whereas the rest debunked it.

For over twenty years, the Annenberg Public Coverage Heart has sought to right the favored false impression linking the vacations with suicide by analyzing newspaper tales to see whether or not they perpetuated or debunked the holiday-suicide fable. Over the 2021-22 vacation season, solely 25 tales made the connection, with 14 of these perpetuating the parable (56%) and 6 debunking it (37%)—among the many lowest whole counts since APPC has tracked this. (See accompanying figures.)

“Our expertise in monitoring information tales about suicide over the vacations reveals how tough it’s stamp out this fable,” stated Dan Romer, analysis director of the Annenberg Public Coverage Heart. “Within the 23 years of our research, solely 9 years had greater charges of debunking of the parable and solely three of these occurred within the final 10 years.”

The undying holiday-suicide myth
Common variety of suicides per day in every month from January 1999-December 2021. The vacation-season months November to January are shaded. Knowledge: CDC’s Nationwide Heart for Well being Statistics. The 2021 knowledge are provisional. Graphic: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart. Credit score: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart

The U.S. suicide charge rises once more

Provisional knowledge from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) present that the variety of suicides elevated in 2021, following declines in 2019 and 2020. Nevertheless, the nationwide age-adjusted suicide charge in 2021 was no greater than the latest peak in 2018 (14.0 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021 vs. 14.2 in 2018).

Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, adopted by lockdowns in components of the USA. In response to provisional knowledge launched by the CDC’s Nationwide Heart for Well being Statistics in September 2022, the variety of suicides in 2021 was 4% greater than in 2020.

The CDC famous that the month-to-month variety of suicides was decrease in 2021 than in 2020 in January, February, and July, and better in the entire different months.

In 2021, the common variety of U.S. suicide deaths per day in January and December put these two months among the many lowest of the 12 months—tenth and twelfth, respectively. The suicide charge in November in 2021 made it seventh among the many 12 months. The month with the best charge of suicides in 2021 was August. (See figures and desk.)

“For some individuals this can be an emotionally fraught time of 12 months,” Romer stated. “With tales specializing in the vacation blues, seasonal affective dysfunction, and different modifications within the seasons, there are lots of components that would appear to assist the parable. There’s additionally concern for individuals who have misplaced family and friends in the course of the 12 months and who could also be experiencing unhappiness about these losses. However we should always not assume that these experiences lead individuals to suicide.”

On the identical time, the pandemic exacerbated ranges of hysteria and melancholy, notably amongst younger individuals.

The undying holiday-suicide myth
Knowledge: CDC. Desk: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart. Knowledge for 2021 are provisional. Credit score: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart

From Dec. 29, 2021-January 10, 2022, for instance, 47.5% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the USA confirmed signs of hysteria dysfunction or depressive dysfunction, in line with surveys performed by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Nationwide Heart for Well being Statistics. That in contrast with 32.1% for the general U.S. charge throughout that interval.

Perpetuating or debunking the holiday-suicide fable

APPC has analyzed information protection of the holiday-suicide fable throughout 23 vacation seasons, from 1999-2000 by way of 2021-22. In most of these years, extra newspaper tales supported the parable than debunked it, as was the case over the 2021-22 holidays.

The false connection between the vacations and suicide could be seen in tales resembling these:

  • In a question-and-answer column printed Dec. 22, 2021, within the Highland (In poor health.) Information Chief, Give attention to the Household president Jim Daly responded to a query from somebody who was not feeling notably merry by saying: “I get it—for each festive get together and joyous carol this Christmas season, there will probably be somebody on the market who, for varied causes, simply barely makes it by way of. And sadly, some WON’T make it by way of—the numbers present that melancholy and suicide charges peak this time of 12 months.”
  • In “The Vibrant Aspect: Joyful Thanksgiving,” which ran on Nov. 23, 2021, within the Spencer (Ind.) Night World, visitor columnist Anne Vibrant wrote concerning the causes of vacation stress: “Most specialists agree that unrealistic expectations are a serious contributor. The over-commercialization of the vacations has led us to consider that our lives ought to be a ‘Hallmark’ TV particular. Add monetary stress, poisonous household conditions, fatigue, loneliness, and unhealthy consuming habits and the state of affairs can grow to be important. Despair and suicide improve dramatically in the course of the ‘jolly’ season.”
The undying holiday-suicide myth
Variety of information tales that assist the vacation suicide fable, from the 1999-2000 vacation season by way of the 2021-22 vacation season. Credit score: Annenberg Public Coverage Heart

Tales debunking the parable embody these:

  • A visitor column by Chris Schillig in The (Ohio) Alliance on Dec. 11, 2021, famous: “It’s usually stated that suicides improve close to the vacations, however this isn’t correct. Suicide makes an attempt lower at Christmastime and peak in the summertime months. Nonetheless, the warning indicators ought to by no means be neglected.”
  • A Dec. 18, 2021, story in The (Va.) Winchester Star about suicide prevention assist being obtainable year-round, stated, “Whereas individuals might imagine suicides improve in the course of the holidays, statistics present in any other case.” The story went on to quote CDC month-to-month suicide knowledge and the Annenberg Public Coverage Heart’s 2018 findings.

Why it is vital to dispel the holiday-suicide fable

It is vital for reporters and information organizations to dispel the parable as a result of permitting individuals to suppose that suicide is extra probably in the course of the vacation season can have contagious results on people who find themselves considering suicide. Nationwide suggestions for reporting on suicide advise journalists to not promote info that may improve contagion, resembling stories of epidemics or seasonal will increase, particularly when the declare has no foundation the truth is. The nationwide suggestions, which have been developed by journalism and suicide-prevention teams together with the Annenberg Public Coverage Heart, say that reporters ought to seek the advice of dependable sources such because the CDC on suicide charges and supply details about sources that may assist individuals in want.

Journalists serving to to dispel the holiday-suicide fable can present sources for readers who’re in or know of somebody who’s in a possible disaster. These providing helpful info embody the CDC, the Suicide Prevention Useful resource Heart, the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being, and the Substance Abuse and Psychological Well being Companies Administration (SAMHSA). In July 2022, the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline was renamed the 988 Suicide & Disaster Lifeline, and 9-8-8 was formally carried out because the hotline’s three-digit nationwide phone quantity.


Information and have tales linking suicide with the vacations have been recognized by way of searches of each the LexisNexis and NewsBank databases. The researchers used the search phrases “suicide” or “suicides” with variations of the phrases “vacation,” “Christmas,” “New Years,” “improve,” “peak,” and “rise,” from November 15, 2021, by way of January 31, 2022. APPC’s searches initially used the LexisNexis database however have been expanded in 2019 to incorporate NewsBank for wider protection of the U.S. press. A reanalysis of previous years since 2015-16, together with NewsBank, didn’t considerably alter the proportion of tales debunking or supporting the parable. Researchers decided whether or not the tales supported the hyperlink, debunked it, or confirmed a coincidental reference. Coincidental tales have been eradicated. Solely home suicides have been counted; abroad suicide bombings, for instance, have been excluded.

Lauren Hawkins and Madison Russ collected and supervised the coding of the tales, and Thomas Christaldi, Sienna Horvath, Tara Shilkret, and Julia Van Lare did the coding.

Supplied by
College of Pennsylvania

The timeless holiday-suicide fable: Some information media tales nonetheless inaccurately hyperlink suicide with the vacation season (2022, December 5)
retrieved 5 December 2022

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