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J Epidemiol Community Health. Nov 2005; 59(11): 967–972.
PMCID: PMC1732944

Diversity and change in suicide seasonality over 125 years


Background: Recent research has corroborated the notion that seasonality in suicide is more heterogeneous and less consistent than postulated by former scholars. This work investigates the smoothing out of suicide seasonality in Switzerland between the late 19th and the end of the 20th century. It includes analyses by region and by suicide method.

Methods: Monthly suicide frequencies in Switzerland are available for the period 1876–2000. Data on canton/region are available for the periods 1901–1920 and 1969–2000, and data on suicide method for the periods 1881–1920 and 1969–2000. Analyses focusing on the overall change rely on data aggregated by quinquennia. The Edwards' test and the peak-low ratio were used in univariate analyses of seasonality. Putative determinants of the peak-low ratio were examined using regression analysis with cantonal data.

Results: The decrease of seasonal effects in suicide applies to a period of more than 100 years in Switzerland. Big differences of seasonal effects have existed all the time with regard to specific methods and to specific regions. No seasonality was apparent in poisoning, and in Geneva and Basle City, respectively. However, the seasonal effects have been most impressive in drowning and hanging suicides, and in rural Catholic regions. In regression analysis, the decline in suicide seasonality is associated with the decline in the agricultural work force.

Conclusions: The smoothing out of suicide seasonality in Switzerland has been a continuous long term process, which probably started by the end of 19th century. Seasonal effects in suicide will probably fade away in most regions of Switzerland and in most suicide methods. This process is in parallel with the disappearance of the traditional rural society.

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