The Immortal Holiday-Suicide Myth

Suicide is a major contributor to premature death in the United States, especially among people aged 10-34, for whom it is the second leading cause of death (


In fact, although the U.S. suicide rate increased in 2021 after two years of declines, the average daily suicide rate during the holiday months remained among the lower rates of the year.


Researchers found that a little more than half of the stories that directly discussed the holidays and the suicide rate supported the false myth, while the remainder debunked it.

Researchers have also sought to correct the popular misconception linking the holidays with suicide by analyzing newspaper stories to see whether they perpetuated or debunked the holiday-suicide myth. Over the 2021-22 holiday season, only 25 stories made the connection, with 14 of those perpetuating the myth (56%) and 11 debunking it (44%), among the lowest total counts.

“The experience in tracking news stories about suicide over the holidays shows how difficult it is to dispel this myth. In the 23 years of our study, only nine years had higher rates of debunking the myth, and only three of those occurred in the last 10 years, “said researchers.

The Rise of Suicide Rates in the U.S.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the number of suicides increased in 2021, following declines in 2019 and 2020. However, the national age-adjusted suicide rate in 2021 was no higher than the recent peak in 2018 (14.0 per 100,000 population in 2021 vs. 14.2 in 2018) (3 Trusted Source
Vital Statistics Rapid Release

Go to source


During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, followed by lockdowns in parts of the United States. According to provisional data released by the CDC’s National Centre for Health Statistics in September 2022, the number of suicides in 2021 was 4% higher than in 2020.

The CDC noted that the monthly number of suicides was lower in 2021 than in 2020 in January, February, and July, and higher in all of the other months.

In 2021, in the US, the average number of suicide deaths per day in January and December put those two months among the lowest of the 12 months – the 10th and 12th, respectively. The suicide rate in November 2021 made it the 7th highest among the 12 months. The month with the highest rate of suicides in 2021 was August.

“For some people, this may be an emotionally difficult time of the year. With stories focusing on the holiday blues, seasonal affective disorder, and other changes in the seasons, there are a lot of factors that would seem to support the myth. There is also concern for those who have lost friends and family during the year and who may be experiencing sadness about those losses. But we should not assume that these experiences lead people to suicide”, said researchers.

At the same time, the pandemic exacerbated levels of anxiety and depression, particularly among young people.

From December 29, 2021, to January 10, 2022, for example, 47.5% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the United States showed symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, according to surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Centre for Health Statistics. That compared with 32.1% for the overall U.S. rate during that period (4 Trusted Source
Anxiety and Depression

Go to source).

Researchers have analyzed news coverage of the holiday-suicide myth across 23 holiday seasons, from 1999-2000 through 2021-22. In most of those years, more newspaper stories supported the myth than debunked it, as was the case over the 2021-22 holidays.

It’s important for reporters and news organizations to dispel the myth because allowing people to think that suicide is more likely during the holiday season can have contagious effects on people who are contemplating suicide. National recommendations for reporting on suicide advise journalists not to promote information that can increase contagion, such as reports of epidemics or seasonal increases, especially when the claim has no basis in fact. It is also imperative that reporters should consult reliable sources such as the CDC on suicide rates and provide information about resources that can help people in need.

Journalists helping to dispel the holiday-suicide myth can provide resources for readers who are in or know of someone who could be in a potential crisis. Those offering valuable information include the CDC, the Suicide Prevention Resource Centre, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In July 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was renamed the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and 9-8-8 was officially implemented as the hotline’s three-digit nationwide telephone number.

References :

  1. The Undying Holiday-Suicide Myth
  2. About Underlying Cause of Death, 1999-2020

  3. Vital Statistics Rapid Release – (
  4. Anxiety and Depression


Source: Medindia

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