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Bombings altered suicide rates

7 January 2009

Suicide rates in England dropped significantly for the two days following the 7 July 2005 bombings, and the two days following the 21st July 2005 attempted bombings, in London.
 Dr Mario Cortina Borja from the UCL ICH and Dr Emad Salib from the Department of Psychiatry at Liverpool University showed a decline in suicide rates following these attacks. Similar reductions were observed in England after the September 11th 2001 bombings in New York and other high profile events. The hypothesis, first proposed by Durkheim in the late 19th  century, is that at times of a perceived threat to national security, suicide rates drop as a result of an increase in social cohesion and purpose.

The study, published in British Journal of Psychiatry, showed just such decline after the events of July 2005 in London. Although the difference was statistically significant it was shorter in duration than  expected, and the authors speculate that this may be a result of the UK's long exposure to domestic terrorism.

It has also been demonstrated in other research that high profile disasters or deaths increase suicide rates. For instance, the televised national shock and public display of grief following the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was shown to have influenced the rate of suicidal behaviour and self-harm.

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