Research Example 2: Relationship between suicide incidents and hours of sunlight

Seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression, is being in a state of depression that occurs at the same time of the year. One of factors that is believed to cause this is the lack of sunlight. “Increased suicide rate in the middle-aged and its association with hours of sunlight,” a study conducted in 2003 by Lambert, G., Reid, C., Kaye, D., Jennings, G., & Esler, M. sheds light into the matter. The article, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(4), 793-5, focuses on the relationship between suicide and sunlight. The study attempts to answer the question: How are suicide and the amount of sunlight associated and what age group is prone to this effect?

The type of data needed to answer the question were reports of acts for the number of suicides and reports of events for the hours of sunlight. For data-gathering, data for suicide incidents and sunlight hours were both from public records. The number of suicide incidents was provided by the Research and Information Coordination Group of the Office of the State Coroner of Victoria and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. The database of the Australian Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology displayed the necessary data for sunlight hours. The method of data analysis used for this study was a comparison using Pearson’s r to evaluate the correlation coefficient between hours of sunlight and number of suicides.

The result of the study was that the incidents of suicide and hours of sunlight were positively correlated. Most suicide occurred during the months of spring and summer. There significant evidence that the more sunlight a place receives, the more likely individuals are to commit suicide. The article also states that, in Victoria, Australia, the rate of suicide for men in the ages of 21 and 60 and women in the ages of 41 and 60 has increased between 1990 and 1996.

The research was simple yet the results were still impressive in my opinion. The findings of the research are contrary to the belief that suicides are more likely to happen during months where there is lack of sunlight. One must not, however, interpret the result of the study as meaning lack of sunlight causes less depression. Although depression and suicide are highly linked, there is evidence that suggested that suicide is more prevalent when individuals are depressed but above the point where they could not make rational decisions. The result of the study supports this idea because it shows that people are more likely to commit suicide when there is more sunlight. When there is more sunlight, people are hypothesized to be happier, which causes people to move above the irrational state in depression making suicide an option for people suffering from depression thus there are more incidents of suicide during months of deprived sunlight.

One thought on “Research Example 2: Relationship between suicide incidents and hours of sunlight

  1. On the other hand, this article compared places, not people. This research tells us that places where there is more sunlight are also places where there are more suicides. This doesn’t mean that individuals exposed to more sunlight will commit suicide at a higher rate than others. That’s because we don’t know which people in those sunny places commit suicide.

    It could be, for example, that sunny places have more perky people, and their perkiness annoys others to the point of suicide.

    Be wary about using relationships found with one unit of analysis (e.g., “places”) to draw conclusions about a different unit of analysis (e.g., “people”).

    — JS

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