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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note/Seasonal Maladies

Air Date: Week of May 5, 2006

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New research links being born in certain seasons with elevated suicide rates. Bobby Bascomb reports.

Transcript

BASCOMB: New research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has found that people – especially women – born in springtime have higher rates of suicide than those born at other times of the year.

A study of almost 27,000 suicides in England and Wales found that females born in April, May, or June were 30 percent more likely to commit suicide, and males 14 percent more likely, than people born in the fall. Researchers also found that mental illnesses such as depression, mood disorders – even alcohol dependence – are more common among people born in the spring.

Seasonal birth trends have been linked to several diseases including cancer, heart disease, and brain tumors. Other research indicates that people born in December are more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and narcolepsy.

Explanations for the observed correlation between suicide and a spring birth are preliminary. But scientists think that changes in maternal health, including infections and temperature fluctuations, may cause slight changes in brain development of the fetus, which are demonstrated later in life as depression and suicidal tendencies.

Scientists caution that suicide is a result of a complex set of biological and social factors and their research simply addresses the possible biological explanations for suicide. That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science. I’m Bobby Bascomb.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

 

Links

The British Journal of Psychiatry

 

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