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Soc 205 - Environmental Factors Affecting Suicide

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Environmental Factors Affecting Suicide

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Environmental Factors Affecting Suicide

In his work, Suicide, Sociologist Emile Durkheim’s argument was that people are more apt to commit suicide when the social ties that bind them are weak. He mapped out four distinct types of suicide: the egoistic, the anomic, the altruistic and the fatalistic. Central to all four forms was that they all represent deviance in the individual’s adaptation to society, therefore should be studied socially rather than psychologically. Although, he observed a correlation between suicides and certain days of the week, seasons, and time of day, he held that the natural environment had no influence on the incidence of suicide, but rather it was caused by social conditions and the intensity of human interactions (Kposowa, 2010, pg. 434).

Durkheim generalized that suicides are higher at the beginning of the week, and lower at the end of the week. He also found that suicides occurred more often in the afternoon. Still he held that, “The conjunction of such predispositions with climate, Durkheim answered, has no such influence; for while the geographical distribution of suicides in Europe varies according to latitude and thus roughly according to climate as well, these variations are better explained by social causes (Jones, 1986, para. 11).” Durkheim insisted that suicide was a social fact only explained by other social facts, yet there is much research to the contrary.  Italian physician and psychical researcher, Henry Morselli, was one of the first to discover that mood disorders were influenced by the weather and concluding that the incidence of suicide increased with environmental temperature which interfered with brain function. He conducted studies, in 19th century Europe, on suicide and climatic data in 28 cities and observed that the seasonal regularity in annual suicide statistics was “too great for it to be attributed to chance of the human will (Morselli, ” 1899, pg. 120).”

Suicides used to be associated with the Monday blues, but recent research has shown that Wednesdays are now the problem days. The phenomena could be attributed to people being fed up with their jobs by the middle of the week. Research has also shown that suicides peak during the winter months, generally thought to be because there is less sunshine on average which aggravates depression and anxiety. Another theory is that winter is associated with family holidays in which people feel depressed by the lack of social support if they don’t have a family. The importance of social integration, as proposed by Durkheim, may be higher in the winter. People spend more time at home with family and friends in winter, therefore a lack of social integration can lead a person to suicide. Technology may be having a positive impact on suicide, because people are no need to feel isolated. Seasonal effects may decrease now that people have the ability to stay connected to the world, rather than sitting home alone during the holidays.

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