Suicide has been a major social scourge since some time now, undermining societies all across the world. A new study has suggested that sunlight might have a certain effect on suicide rates because of the serotonin-stimulation of our moods.
This month has been full of reports of suicide. Earlier, the World Health Organisation presented a report revealing that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds all around the globe. Mostly all age groups have been shown to be touched by this social scourge. Mauritius is no exception to the trend. A month ago, a boy of 11 years of age who was a pupil of the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) ended his life. A week ago, a girl of 13 years old committed suicide in Bassin Bleu at St-Paul allegedly because of an incident that occurred at her school.
The factors that push someone, adult, child, or young teenager, to end his life are many and entwined with other features – the combination of factors is complicated enough. What if weather were to have a certain effect? A new study has suggested that exposure to sunlight might have an impact, indirect or not, on suicide – at least, a correlation seems to have been observed between sunshine and suicide.
Scientists have noticed that suicide rates tend to rise during spring. While one might be tempted to think that winter would witness more suicide cases, the truth is that spring has been associated with higher rates. Does this imply that seasons exert a certain direct influence? The link is not as clear though. The fact that scientists have long since found that suicide rates peak during spring as opposed to the coldest season, the researchers set out to find out whether the factor in play is sunshine.
The study was done in Austria. It was found that irrespective of seasons, a number of sunny days might be associated with a higher suicide rate. The researchers studied data accumulated from 1970 to 2010. They compared the number of hours of sunshine for any given day during that time period and the 70 000 suicide cases that happened in Austria. The results that were obtained were not straightforward. They found that the number of suicides is linked with the hours of daily sunshine for the day when the suicide was committed and days before. They ended up concluding that sunshine on the day of suicide as well as sunshine during 10 days before might be easing the way to suicide. On the other hand, they found another correlation: sunshine for 14 to 60 days before have the opposite effect: as though acting as shield from suicide. Sunshine lasting for less than one week was observed in parallel with increased suicide rates, while sunshine for over a period of two weeks were recorded together with decreased suicide rates.
How does sunshine affect suicide rates?
According to the authors, light is the key. Light forms a primordial part of our lives. We need light for our food to grow, we need light for our eyes to see, and, light also has an effect on our moods – light stimulates a neurotransmitter known as serotonin which in turn has an impact on our moods. Exposure to light might lead to the modifications of the concentrations of serotonin, and, as a consequence, affect behaviours and emotions. That could account for impulsiveness and aggressive behaviours of some of us.
The researchers also showed that women are more inclined to attempt ending their lives, while their male counterparts are more likely to die from suicide. As such, the new study showed that women might go for suicide after shorter exposure to sunlight as compared to men’s exposure.
To conclude, since the results are not in and of themselves proof that sunshine has any bearing on suicide, the authors said that the study is no reason for people to actively avoid sunshine because of the insinuations of the research.