Increased suicides during new year, but not during Christmas in Sweden: analysis of cause of death data 2006-2015

Nord J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan;72(1):72-74. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2017.1378716. Epub 2017 Sep 22.


Background: Previous studies have investigated the impact of the Christmas and New Year holiday on suicide rates. However, no such data has yet been published on Swedish suicides.

Aims: To examine the occurrence of suicides on these dates in Sweden between 2006 and 2015.

Methods: The suicide count for each date between December 15th and January 15th was obtained from the Swedish cause of death registry. The observations were transformed to Z-scores to enable calculation of p-values.

Results: A small but non-significant decrease in suicides was observed on Christmas and New Year's Eve. A significant spike was found on New Year's Day (NYD) (Z = 3.40; p < .001), and these excess suicide occurred mainly among men aged 15-24 and 45-64. However, the number of suicides were somewhat lower than expected on the 31st of December (Z = -1.58; p = .115).

Discussion: The noted increase in suicide on NYD is in line with previous research from other countries. However, the decrease in suicides on the day before NYD suggests a delay rather than a spontaneous increase of suicides. Possible mechanisms to explain this phenomenon are discussed, such as the "broken promise effect", increased alcohol consumption, or lower help-seeking and accessibility to care.

Keywords: Christmas; Suicide; Sweden; alcohol use; broken promise effect; holidays; new year; prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death / trends*
  • Female
  • Holidays / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Statistics as Topic / trends*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / trends*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult