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Holiday-Suicide Link: Newspapers Turn the Corner

Newspapers are close to putting to rest the myth that the holidays increase the risk of suicide. A new study shows a dramatic drop in articles that – despite having no basis in fact – attribute the arrival of the holiday season with an uptick in suicides.

An analysis of newspaper reporting released today by the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that only nine percent of articles written during last year’s holiday season (2006-2007) about suicides perpetuated the myth. That represents a statistically significant drop from the previous holiday period when more than 50 percent supported the myth (see Table 1). The majority of last season’s stories debunked the myth.

The rate of suicide in the U.S. is lowest in December, and peaks in the spring and fall. Data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (see Figure 1) show that this pattern has not changed through 2004, the most recent year for which national data are available.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has been tracking holiday suicide reporting since 2000 when it released its first press alert on newspaper coverage of the myth.