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For Suicide, Why Wednesday?

What is it about Wednesday?

Intriguing new research shows that Wednesday is the day of the week on which most suicides occur. That contradicts earlier, long-standing findings that Monday was the most common day for people to commit suicide.

The study looked at data about suicides nationwide among people over age 18; that number totaled 131,636 over five years. Almost a quarter of those suicides happened on Wednesdays, while only about 14 percent took place on Mondays. The fewest -- just over 11 percent -- occurred on Thursdays.

In keeping with previous research, this study showed that men were about three times as likely as women to attempt suicide and about three times as likely to succeed in their attempt. [CORRECTION: This study looked only at suicide deaths, not attempts. I misread the report and mistakenly believed it commented on attempts as well.]

It's very hard for a person not inclined to consider suicide to get inside the head of one who does contemplate killing him- or herself. So it's hard to know why people would choose Wednesday above all other days to commit such an act. The paper suggests that perhaps life's stresses build up by mid-week and seem most insurmountable on that day.The study suggests more research is needed; it would of course be good to figure this out. Because maybe if we understood their thinking, we could better help dissuade people from taking their own lives.

What do you think? What makes Wednesday stand out in this grim regard?

(Here's information about a nationwide network of suicide prevention hotlines.)

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Psychology  
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Are we sure this isn't just a meaningless statistic? There are only 7 choices, so one of them is mathematically likely to appear more often than the others. As someone who has considered this action, day of week is likely to be completely irrelevant. When life gets to you, over a period of time, you decide to deal with the pain, and you do -- or don't. For some, pressure may build during the weekend and lead to action a couple days later. For others, access to the means may mean it happens midweek. Nobody in this situation is likely looking at what day of the week it is.

Posted by: farwest | July 15, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the observation, farwest. I have read about experts commenting on this study who agree that it's likely most suicide attempts aren't carried out with the day of the week in mind. I'm not sure you'd call the statistics meaningless, though, as the difference between Wednesday and, say, Thursday is fairly substantial. What to make of the statistics, though, remains puzzling.

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | July 15, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

It may have something to do with the feeling of loneliness being at its height on Wednesday. People make plans for the weekend, or even if they don't make them, the possibility of plans developing for the weekend is there. Also, if one does stay in-touch with friends and family this is often usually done over the weekend. So, by Wednesday the pressures have built up over Monday and Tuesday and one is not quite preparing mentally for the weekend. Being someone who has struggled with this I do agree that which day of the week it is doesn't consciously matter, but if it has been on ones mind for a period of time, doing it when one is completely alone and will not be bothered by anyone is key.

I wonder if there are statistics on attempted suicides? I would hypothesize that the highest number of unsuccessful attempts occur over the weekend. One is much more likely to be found, or prevented, by someone coming across them on the weekend, not on a Wednesday.

Posted by: Alcatraz14 | July 15, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

With a sample size of over 100,000 and such a broad deviation between the actual 25% and the expected 14%, this has got to be quite statistically significant, I would think.

I would have thought Friday and Saturday would be the lowest. But here's how it might go:

Monday morning - back to work, high hopes;
Monday evening - hopes were destroyed;
Tuesday morning - I hate life;
Tuesday evening - I think I'll kill myself;
Wednesday - moment of truth;
Thursday - well its almost the weekend, I'll wait;

Posted by: skeptik73 | July 15, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know whether attempted suicides occur at the same rate on Wednesdays. Further, is there a spike in calls to suicide hotlines on Tuesday evenings or Wednesdays? That information may shed some light on whether Wednesday suicides are statistically significant or just a coincidence.

Posted by: jmg531 | July 15, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

There's Ruby Tuesday's and T.G.I.F. - if Wednesday got an eaterie, maybe Monday would be back on top as the go-to day?

Posted by: jimward21 | July 15, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Hump Day

Posted by: blonde19 | July 15, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

All I can suggest is that, in a sense, Wednesday is the "opposite" of the weekend. It's as far away as it could be from both the preceding weekend and the upcoming weekend and whatever comfort or respite that less structured, less demanding time might provide.

That being said, I am surprised, seriously, that this statistic isn't more closely tied to payday, which I believe is usually a Friday at most companies (when it's a day of the week at all), or the day before payday, when funds are lowest. That would tie into financial stress.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | July 15, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Ms LaRue Huget:

Your report (but not the study) is incorrect in stating that men are 3 times more likely than women to ATTEMPT suicide. This study did not look at suicide attempts at all, only deaths. It is a well known fact that women actually make suicidal attempts more frequently than men in most countries, but men are more likely to die.

Posted by: moon6pence | July 15, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

This makes sense. Wednesday is always the day that I wake up and feel like I need a cigarette and and/or a controlled substance just to get me out of bed and out the door. Exhausted from the previous two days of work, but two more days till the weekend.

Skeptic73 is right on the money.

Posted by: FrankIBC | July 15, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse


You are absolutely right; I misread part of the report that seemed to be comparing suicide attempts to suicide deaths. This study did NOT look at attempts, only actual suicide deaths. Thank you for reading carefully and bringing this to my attention.

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | July 15, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Wednesday's child is full of woe...

Posted by: anti1 | July 15, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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