The timing of general population and patient suicide in England, 1997-2012

B. Cavanagh, S. Ibrahim, A. Roscoe, Harriet Bickley, D. While, K. Windfuhr, L. Appleby, N. Kapur, Ali Baird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background There have been conflicting findings on temporal variation in suicide risk and few have examined the phenomenon in clinical populations. The study investigated seasonal and other temporal patterns using national data. Methods Data on 73,591 general population and 19,318 patient suicide deaths in England between 1997 and 2012 were collected through the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide examining suicide rates in relation to month of the year, day of the week, and individual days of national or religious significance. Results Suicide incidence fell over successive months of the year and there was evidence of an overall spring peak. Monday was associated with the highest suicide rates and in the patient population this effect appeared to be more pronounced in those aged over 50 or those who lived alone. Suicide risk was significantly lower during Christmas, particularly for women. There was a peak in suicide on New Year's Day in the general population. Other ‘special days’ were not associated with a change in suicide incidence. Limitations We were limited to identifying associations between the variables investigated and were unable to explore causal mechanisms. We did not carry out comprehensive multi-variable adjustment in our regression models. Conclusions There is substantial seasonal and temporal variation in suicide deaths, and there appears to be some evidence in the clinical as well as the general population in England. Clinical services should be aware of the risk of suicide just after the weekend, especially in people who live alone, and the potential need for closer supervision during this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number197
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • suicide
  • mental health
  • temporal patterns
  • seasonal variation
  • suicide timing


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