Study Reveals Link Between Suicide and Sunshine, Study

First Posted: Sep 11, 2014 03:33 AM EDT

Daily exposure to sunshine can cut down the risk of suicide, a new study reveals.

The effect of sunshine on suicides has been known since the early 1800s. In the latest study, the researchers found that lower rates of suicide are strongly linked with daily exposure to sunshine in the prior 14-60 days.

According to the researchers, sunlight interacts with serotonin systems in the brain and strongly influences the serotonin-related behavior such as mood and impulsiveness. It is this behavior that plays a major role in affecting suicidal thoughts.

The association between suicide and duration of sunshine was examined after mathematically eliminating the seasonal variations in sunshine and the rate of suicide. They evaluated the data of 69,462 confirmed suicides in Austria between 1970 and 2010. The duration to the exposure to sunshine per day was calculated from 86 different meteorological stations.

A positive correlation existed between the rate of suicide and the duration of daily sunshine on the day of the suicide and 10 days before that triggered the act of self-harm. Apart from this, exposure to sunlight in the prior 14-60 days had a negative association and also was linked with lower suicidal rates.

It was among women, that the researchers noticed a correlation between daily exposure to sunshine hours and rate of suicide. The negative link between the two factors was seen among men.

"Owing to the correlative nature of the data, it is impossible to directly attribute the increase in suicide to sunshine during the 10 days prior to the suicide event. ... Further research is warranted to determine which patients with severe episodes of depression are more susceptible to the suicide-triggering effects of sunshine," said Benjamin Vyssoki, M.D., of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria.

The study was documented in JAMA Psychiatry.

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