Seasonality in suicides: the influence of suicide method, gender and age on suicide distribution in Italy

Psychiatry Res. 1998 Nov 16;81(2):219-31. doi: 10.1016/s0165-1781(98)00099-7.


In order to ascertain if and how age, gender and choice of lethal means influence the seasonal distribution of suicide in Italy, data concerning all suicides registered in Italy from 1984 to 1995 have been analyzed, taking these variables into account. In the age group 14-65 years and over a total of 31771 male suicides (mean yearly rate, 12.6 per 100000) and 11984 female suicides (mean yearly rate, 4.4 per 100000) have been identified in Italy during the study period. Suicides in the younger age ranges, both among males and females, show a less marked asymmetrical seasonal distribution than those in the older age groups. Only suicides committed by violent methods (ICD 953-958) show clear evidence of seasonality, with a peak in spring and a low in late autumn. Suicides committed by non-violent methods (950-952) follow no seasonal trend in either sex. Spectral analysis reveals a circannual rhythm for violent suicides (ICD 953-958) in both genders. For male non-violent suicides (ICD 950-952), a period with a frequency of 0.0833 (12 months) has been identified, but with a polarity opposite to that of male violent suicides. For female non-violent suicides, no period of frequency of 0.0833 could be identified, but, as for female violent suicides, a period with frequency close to 0.2500 (4 months) has been found. Changes in climate, then, correlate with the monthly distribution of violent and non-violent suicides in opposite ways: male violent suicides show a significant positive relationship with indicators of temperature and exposure to the sun, and a significant negative relationship with indicators of humidity and rainfall. Female suicides show less significant relationships with climate indicators. Work aimed at suicide prevention should therefore take into account the complex influence of seasonal climate both on human biological rhythms (particularly on 5-HT related functions and their actions on mood and impulsivity) and on sociorelational habits.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death*
  • Climate
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seasons*
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data