Nearly one-quarter of suicides in the U.S. occur on Wednesdays, about twice as many as almost every other day of the week, a new study has found.
The study, published in the journal Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, contradicts earlier findings that suicides are more common on Mondays and left experts puzzling over what may be behind Wednesday’s grim distinction.
Is it something about the middle of the week? Job stresses piling up and potentially overwhelming people who already see their problems as insurmountable?
“It may be just that it feels like there’s no way out on Wednesday, (it’s) too long to wait for the weekend,” said Theodore Mucha, medical director at the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn. Like other experts, he cautioned that his explanation was just a guess.
Researchers Augustine J. Kposowa and Stephanie D’Auria at the University of California, Riverside, examined data from U.S. death records from 2000 to 2004, focusing on adult suicides.
Kposowa and D’Auria also found that more suicides occurred in summer and spring than in fall or winter, contrasting with traditional thinking that winter months bring more risk of suicide.
Other parts of the study were consistent with previous research, showing that men are more likely to take their lives than women, and people who are divorced, white, educated or living in nonmetropolitan areas have a higher risk of suicide.
Kposowa pointed to workplace stress as a potential explanation and believes changes in Americans’ work and family life may be behind the shift in suicide’s concentration from Mondays to Wednesdays.
Increased economic competition worldwide has threatened job security for many workers, heightening stress, frustration and even feelings of betrayal, said Kposowa, a sociology professor.
“Individuals work harder and harder, but seem to be losing ground; they have little or nothing to show for their labor – especially among those who depend on others for wages,” he wrote in an e-mail.
“It is highly likely that the middle of the week (represented by Wednesday) is when these stressors and feelings of hopelessness are at their highest.”
More than 25,000 people kill themselves in the U.S. each year, an average of slightly more than one per day in each state.