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


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


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.