Background Month of birth as a suicide risk factor has not been adequately explored. The findings of published studies are contradictory and inconclusive.
Aims To examine the association between suicide and month of birth using suicide data for a 22-year period in England and Wales. The sample size of 26 915 suicides greatly exceeds all previous studies.
Method We analysed all suicides (ICD–9 codes E950–959) and deaths from undetermined injury (E980–989) reported between 1979 and 2001 in England and Wales for persons born between 1955 and 1966, using Poisson and negative binomial generalised linear models with seasonal components.
Results Birth rates of people who later kill themselves show disproportionate excess for April, May and June compared with the other months. Overall, we found an increase of 17% in the risk of suicide for people born in the peak month (spring–early summer) compared with those born in the trough month (autumn–early winter); this risk increase was larger for women (29.6%) than for men (13.7%).
Conclusions The‘month of birth’factor in suicide can be interpreted in terms of the foetal origins hypothesis.Our findings might have implications for our understanding of the multifaceted aetiology of suicide and may eventually offer new strategies for research and prevention.
- © 2006 Royal College of Psychiatrists