back to article Too much sunshine makes you commit suicide

It is not gloom and darkness but sunlight which drives people to kill themselves, according to new research. A study of suicides in Greenland has found that suicide rates increase sharply in summer, worsening with increased northerly latitude and round-the-clock daylight. The counter-intuitive findings are reported in a paper …

COMMENTS

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  1. SuperTim

    Silly sods....

    Anyone who has ever worked nights knows its well hard to sleep with sunlight streaming in through the window. Sleep deprivation for 6 months at a time would drive many to suicide methinks....

  2. M7S

    Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture

    Any relationship between non-dark evenings and people stressing out in this way?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    errmm

    Wouldn't the light problem in the far northern regions be alot down to damaging sleeping patterns and sleep itself. Decent sleep being important in maintaining a good mental state.

    I don't think I'd deal with sun 24x7...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I thought...

    It wasn't the over abundance of light but the lack of darkness that effected people. With all that day it must mess up people's body clocks something awful; the destruction of their normal healthy sleep pattern causing them to take their lives... So not too much light, but not enough dark maybe.

  5. Andrew Barr
    Coat

    SAD Lamps

    So we now need a replacement idea for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamps - may be a thick blanket that you could put over your head!! But because it has medical properties you could now sell them for twice the price of a normal blanket - the same could be done with black out blinds!

    Mines the one that does not let the sun shine through!!

  6. DZ-Jay

    So...

    So what you all (three comments so far) are saying is that the increased suicide rate is caused by sleep depravation, ultimately caused by, uh, sunlight? In other words, you are agreeing with the report, not rejecting it.

    -dZ.

  7. Luther Blissett

    I too am forced to speculate

    Two other possible correlations that spring to mind are (a) the seasonal availability of reindeer in heat, and (b) that old chestnut anthropogenic global warming. Can I have £50k to prove them (both).

  8. Random Noise
    Boffin

    Top new tech to resolve issue

    I will soon be marketing my new tech in North as a solution to the summer suicide problem.

    I call my wondrous new technology "The Curtain" TM. It is made of a special material which contains the darkness in the room, and by not allowing darkness to escape stops the user from suffering from an overabundance of light.

    Those of you looking for a good escape from the current financial crisis would do well to buy shares in my company as the price can only go up.

  9. Mr F&*king Grumpy
    Coat

    Dangerous place....

    "suicides in Greenland from 1968-2002, during which period there were apparently 1351 suicides and 308 homicides"

    Blimey. Was there anybody left alive ?

  10. Andrew Ducker
    Unhappy

    Theory

    It's quite commonly known that people are at the highest risk of suicide when they have their first-upswing. They pull out of the slump where they can't do anything, and have the energy to do something. Sadly, this leads a chunk of them to make "never feel depressed again" that something...

  11. Steven Jones

    Hardly news

    This is hardly a new observation. An article in the Guardian on 12th May 2005 repoprts something almost identicals (the first half of May clearly being the peak period for reporting increases in suicides in the early summer, at least in the northern hemisphere).

    A short extract...

    "The seasonal effect is seen all over the world, with the northern hemisphere witnessing a big rise in suicides in May and June and the southern hemisphere seeing a similar rise in November. While no one has a complete explanation as to why, the leading theory is that the increase is down to the effects of sunlight on our hormones."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/may/12/mentalhealth.society

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mmm...

    Could be that the warm weather shows the disparity in their lives relative to those around them that are having more fun, as opposed to the winter months, when everyone tends to stay bundled and inside. If everyone around you isn't thrilled about the weather, then at least you wouldn't feel as isolated from society.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @SuperTim

    When I used to do that, I'd just put another set of curtains up, or a piece of board or a set of blinds.

    I'm guessing that after however many thousands of years man living that far north the natives would have figured out to put, say, an animal skin or other opaque material over the window.

  14. Psymon

    by no means enough evidence to determine between cause and symptom

    I'd certainly want to investigate the possibility of sleep deprivasion in these case.

    Another possibility could be social contact?

    Longer days means more prolonged social interaction, which could for example increase the chances of a depressing social interaction occuring such as break-up/argument?

    Longer days could also lead to a greater chance of financial woes - you can't spend money while asleep (well, not as much, anyway). Really, the longer you are awake, the greater the chance of something bad happening to you.

    The biochemical reactions to sunlight have been studied quite extensively, and it has been established for some time now that infra-red radiation penetrating through the skull and eyes triggers a release of endorphins. Quite the opposite effect to depression.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (of which I'm a mild sufferer) has been studied pretty thoroughly.

    OK, the scientists have admitted that further research is required, but I still believe they've significantly over-stepped the mark by even postulating a direct correlation with sunlight.

    I hate it when scientists jump to poorly investigated conclusion to get their names in the headlines

  15. Pensare

    Ermm.....

    There are a lot more potential reasons than just the level of sunlight.

    If you feel depressed in winter, you tend to look forward to summer, thinking it will bring you better times. If it doesnt then you are in a position where you are thinking "This is as good as its going to get".

    Conversely as you enter into winter most people automatically resign themselves to dark months ahead and a light at the end of the tunnel.

    The imagery in the mind is striking and could subconciously assist the depressed through winter but that extra "help" would not be there for you in summer.

  16. Martin Lyne

    Or..

    Or the darkness made them depressed, but they didn't want to die in the dark, so they waited for the sunlight period to start again..

  17. Doug Glass
    Go

    Blind at Birth

    So I guess it would follow the suicide rate among people born blind would have to be zero huh?

  18. Simon B
    Heart

    complete contradition. Do YOU have a suicide light bulb??

    "A study of suicides in Greenland has found that suicide rates increase sharply in summer"

    Survey contraction? There have been many surveys telling us that during dark winter months people get depressed; there's even a condition now medically recognised but the name fails me. And there are daylight treatments and daylight bulbs to perk us all up! (sucide bulbs??) Depression is a cause of suicide, and many suicide at xmas which again is DARK. So we have to live in semi light semi dark to be happy????

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Yay

    Huzzah for being a Goth, we are no longer the depressed ones!

    Mines the leather one

  20. DZ-Jay

    Re: Or..

    I agree. Had the researchers considered how difficult it is to find rope and other small, sharp objects in the dark during winter?

    -dZ.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    RE: So...

    DZ-Jay wrote: "So what you all (three comments so far) are saying is that the increased suicide rate is caused by sleep depravation, ultimately caused by, uh, sunlight? In other words, you are agreeing with the report, not rejecting it."

    No. Think again.

    The previous posters were merely pointing out that lack of sleep may be the cause, not too much sunlight.

    In order to verify this, you'd need to have some volunteers who are prepared to be kept awake by excessive noise (or something other than sunlight) for six months and then check chemical levels in the brain (and compare them to a control group and also against results from people who had been kept awake by light).

    It's called the scientific method.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Er

    Lewis writes - 'As one travels into the arctic in summertime, the sun stays in the sky for 24 hours a day. This seems to lead people to kill themselves more than they otherwise would.'

    I think you'll find a person only kills themselves once.

  23. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Er

    Right. I've had numerous comments on that line from you lot, and it ends NOW. The line is correct as it stands. You all know perfectly well what it means. This is not an invitation to a grammar-off. Just suck it up.

    Good God, have another cup of syrup-thick coffee and five Kit-Kats (because one's just not quite sufficient - there's quite a bit of air in the wafers when you think about it) or do some coding or hey, witter on the internet about something else, even. What do you think about Sikh police officers asking for bullet-proof turbans? That's a thing! Try that one!

    Honestly, you people.

  24. Martin Glenn

    Batty!

    Wondered why I hadn't seen many suicidal bats.

  25. Peyton

    seems reasonable

    In the winter, no light makes you depressed, but you just sleep it off (I know I practically hibernate in the winter). In the summer, 20+ hours of sunlight makes you completely loopy and you have no recourse of a nice nap to settle you down.

    The research does seem to come across as trying to imply that we just forget all about the winter months, which is not good. Seems like with the 's' being for seasonal, we can still file it all under SAD.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Er...er...please miss, I've wet myself

    I'm desperately sorry if I've trodden on a professional toe, I do know you guys and gals up there are working real hard for us apparantly ungrateful wretches, you're the journalists and masters of the English langridge, and all, and Sarah, you are so right, I do know exactly what was meant. Therein lies the humour, meagre as it is.

    After I've eaten all those kitkats, you know, my blood sugar will be higher than it otherwise would.

    One could say ....

    This seems to lead more people to kill themselves than would be expected.

    ...... I'm going off sick now, and staying anonymouse

  27. Gianni Straniero
    Boffin

    Insomnia

    Sleep deprivation has been found to trigger psychotic symptoms, but apparently only those with a predisposition to schizophrenia, and we all know how that can turn out.

    Also, a little light (sorry) Googling turned up this article:

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.07.006

    "Chronic sleep problems are consistently associated with greater risk for suicidality"

  28. Steve Evans
    Coat

    Hmmm...

    Looks like another study from the dept of the bleedin' obvious.

    Sleep deprivation as has been mentioned by pretty much every comments is most probably the cause.

    Although my theory works the other way round...

    Darkness tends to make people sleepy.

    It's hard to kill yourself when you're snoring.

    Unless you happen to be driving a truck of course, but then that's an accident, not deliberate.

    Mine's the one with the shift workers eye mask in the pocket.

  29. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Thank goodness I'm safe then!

    Well, thank goodness I'm safe then! Back to my dimly lit computer dungeon....

  30. Bryan W
    Stop

    Useless statistical data

    Suicide is a problem with the complex system of the human mind. Sunlight is just another variable among millions. Maybe it directly contributes or maybe its just a correlative relation.

    In short, statistics are a pseudoscience. The results of this study prove nothing. They only point out a pattern.

    Science promised me a flying car. Instead they waste time and money on this kind of stuff.

  31. Chris C

    Relationships?

    Just pure speculation on my part, but I would venture a guess that a lot of suicides are the result of failed relationships. I would also venture a guess that depression caused by failed relationships hits people harder in the summer when they are more likely to see their ex (especially in smaller towns/cities/villages), as well as see their ex more scantily dressed than in winter. Seeing an ex that you're still in love with, wearing next to nothing while frolicking about on the beach with their new love, is likely to drive anyone to thoughts of suicide.

    Also, there's a lot more going on outside during summer months (I assume this is as true in Greenland as it is in the US). This extra activity can easily cause an already-depressed person to feel even more removed and depressed, increasing their thoughts of suicide and willingness to go through with it.

  32. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    May, you say?

    Living in a university town, talk of suicide in early May makes me think of students facing up to the exam season. I dare say that's less of an issue amongst older people.

  33. Andy Bright

    What sleep derprivation?

    I like in Alaska, even now (May) the sun doesn't fully set (civil twilight) until around 11pm. By June and throughout most of the Summer, the sky will remain dark for about 3 hours, long after anyone who works has gone to bed.

    But sleep deprivation because of too much sunlight? For tourists perhaps, but not for people who live here. You see we've come up with a remarkable invention. We call them 'curtains'.

    Curtains come in varying thicknesses, some of which can give you absolute darkness even in the broad daylight of 12 midnight. Others are thick enough just to dampen the light so it feels like going to bed for an afternoon nap. Admit it, how many of you find any difficulty at all in taking naps in the afternoon, especially on hot, sunny days. I think you'll find the Spanish are masters at it.

    I would say that if there was anything that drives a person nuts in the summer, it's the frikkin heat. Especially in northern climates where we're not used to it and because of the longer daylight hours, our equivalent of midday sun is closer to 3pm than 12pm. That means it stays hot and sticky until the very early hours of the morning. I've never heard of someone killing themselves in a fit of hot and sticky irritability though.

    More likely the long darkness has made that person depressed, and in many cases that depression doesn't fully manifest itself until the spring or summer. People don't get depressed one day and off themselves the next. It takes time before someone goes from being depressed to being suicidal, and I'm guessing that this is your reason for summer suicides. After years of getting winter depressions, they finally lose it and after a few months fighting it out in their heads, decide to take their own lives by jumping off highrise hotels in downtown Anchorage.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    It isn't just people

    Around here as we get more light the groundhogs go about willy-nilly running in front of autos and getting themselves offfed in the process. I swear, it looks intentional..

    @Sarah - grammar So you're saying they don't really get deader? No 110% effort credits?

  35. Garret Cotter
    Stop

    Please look before you leap

    Folks, this is a well-known part of the seasonality of mood disorders. Many people are seriously investigating how it relates to the molecular biology of circadian rhythms, with mounting evidence. I refer you to chapter 16 of Goodwin & Jamison (2nd ed) and references therein. Please don't denigrate the valuable work being done in this field on the basis of one media report. Any monkey can spout out "correlation doesn't imply causation" - look behind the headlines before trying to wave your willy.

  36. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Greenland blues

    Who'd a thunk it?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I knew it

    sunlight leads to zombies, thanks Miss Bee, there are so many sceptics out there, we all know Zombies exist and you can die more than once. Oh wait it could be vampires, now that's an even better fit.

  38. skeptical i

    Impending tourists?

    Hypothesis 1: The prospect of facing yet another summer of idjit tourists all asking "Why's it called 'Greenland' when it's mostly white with snow?", "Where are the igloos?", and whatever else passes for humour in order to put food on the table would drive anyone running on mental reserves after a long sunless winter to eat the harpoon.

    Hypothesis 2: Diet and nutrition? I ass+u+me that the average Greenlander's diet will be heavy on meat and fish, and light on fruit, veggies, and other plant- based sources of nutrition. Might there be potential vitamin/ mineral imbalances coming into play here as well?

  39. Solomon Grundy
    Alert

    Depression Spikes as Spring Progresses

    While I don't know if too much sunlight can make you more likely to kill yourself, I do know that late spring/early summer is when depression peaks in more than 2/3 of clinically defined cases of depression. Not that SAD shite either, real depression.

    The *current* theory is that most people spend the Winter tucked safely away in their homes (hopefully) snuggled up with some hot bird (girlfriend, wife, prostitute, etc...), safe and warm in their cave (This is where I break from current scientific studies and begin to interject results of more informal studies:) and when spring/summer comes this time of temporary bliss passes and they must actually go outside and do something productive/boring in order to keep the bird satisfied with shiny metal and colorful bits of string so she will be available for snuggling next Winter.

    While this behavior may continue for many years, sooner or later the *victim* becomes aware of the high mental and financial burden this situation places on him (he's usually informed by a combination of accountants, bankers, lawyers, and psychologists somewhere around tax time - spring/summer)

    The first reaction is to think about killing the person that tricked him into this situation with what is in reality a poorly disguised tuna sandwich. But after thinking better of it decides to off himself as one last big joke aimed primarily at the next bloke who gets suckered in by the tuna sandwich after it has gotten a new haircut and possibly a new car (or animal companion - used to distract new prey from Jedi like mind tricks).

    Disclaimer: The tuna sandwich does have and it willing to use the Jedi like mind tricks in ways more likely to cause suicide in bratwursts. Bratwursts are generally limited to using any mind tricks to gain entry into exclusive clubs in order to get free drinks - therefore rendering tuna sandwiches far more dangerous than bratwursts.

    Statement of Political Correctness: While written in a masculine tone the above commentary can be made to suit any gender by replacing tuna sandwich with bratwurst and interchanging the placement of bloke and bird.

  40. John Tserkezis
    Happy

    Re: Re: So...

    > In order to verify this, you'd need to have some volunteers who are prepared to be kept awake

    > by excessive noise (or something other than sunlight) for six months and then check chemical

    > levels in the brain (and compare them to a control group and also against results from people

    > who had been kept awake by light). It's called the scientific method.

    Er, not it's not. For one thing, you're assuming that _measureable_ chemical changes in the brain are instrumental to whether or not the subject wants to kill themselves, and that the chemical changes are absolute rather than relative, and, you're assuming the subjects aren't going to kill themselves before the end of the test anyway.

    I know I would, purely out of principal just to screw with your results. So there, I win.

  41. Charles Manning

    Ms Bee proving it

    Spring and she's getting cranky.

    If she keeps this up for too long Reg readers will be snuffing themselves in droves.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @Solomon Grundy - or animal companion

    All you sheep...be VERY AFRAID.

  43. Magilla
    Go

    The Happening

    So the REAL story isn't that plants are trying to kill us - what's actually happening is that with the onset of global warming, we'll be forced to live closer and closer to the poles where it's cooler, where we will eventually all just kill ourselves, thus solving the problem.

    Brilliant!

  44. Zane

    No surprise

    Sounds contradicting, but I guess it's not.

    As someone said before, depressive people often commit suicide on the first upswing. Also known that some anti-depresiva will give a person enough motivation to commit suicide, but not enough energy to feel good.

    Lived in a scandinavian country for two years, and I'd say the toughest month is May.

    Autumn and winter are no problem as long as Christmas and New Yea rare approaching - in fact, it get's better and better as streets are lit up for Christmas, and holiday is approaching. In January you still have energy from your vacation. In February, you start waiting for the sun, but you just know that February and March are still cold, rainy and dark nearly everywhere.

    When it's still mainly cold and wet in May, you really get hopeless.

    Should then the sun come out - you will just think "what a nice day to die".

    Zane.

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