Higher Risk of Suicide on Milestone Birthdays: Evidence from Japan

Tetsuya Matsubayashi, Myoung jae Lee, Michiko Ueda

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies suggest that the risk of suicide is higher during and around birthdays. The so-called “birthday blues” might be stronger on birthdays at milestone ages (e.g., 20, 30, 40), as these symbolic ages might represent occasions for existential stock-taking that may highlight failures and underachievement in life. Moreover, in some countries (including Japan), certain symbolic birthdays come with the expectation of celebration with family and friends, and thus such special birthdays may elevate the birthday blues if there is nobody to celebrate the occasion with. This study examines the possibility that there are more suicides on milestone birthdays than on other birthdays or days other than birthdays, using approximately one million individual death records between 1974 and 2014 in Japan. Graphical analysis and Poisson regression analysis showed that suicides occurred more frequently on milestone birthdays when people turn 20, 30, 40, and 60. This pattern was predominately observed in men. Our findings suggest that it is crucial for health professionals and family members to pay close attention to vulnerable individuals as their birthdays approach. In particular, individuals are at a higher risk when birthdays coincide with occasions of social significance, including the ages of adulthood (age 20) and retirement (age 60).

Original languageEnglish
Article number16642
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by JSPS Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. Grant Number 17H02541 (PI: Michiko Ueda), and the Innovative Research Program on Suicide Countermeasures Research Grant (PI: Michiko Ueda). In addition, this study was supported by the following grants: Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research Project funded by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) Grant Number H29-Junkankitou-Ippan-002 (PI: Haruko Noguchi) and JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research Grant Number 17K04264 (PI: Akira Kawamura). The approval to use the Vital Statistics for academic research was obtained from the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) under Tohatsu-0507-3. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors would like to thank Haruko Noguchi and Akira Kawamura for their help with the acquisition of the Vital Statistics data. Myoung-jae Lee dedicates this paper to his friend, Jae-soo Lee, whose untimely death prompted this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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