Pollen is a killer

Suicides actually tend to rise in the spring and summer. Even in dark, frozen Finland, more people kill themselves in May than in February. In South Africa,suicides peak in the southern hemisphere’s spring—September and October. One reason is that warm weather is activating, so people who are suicidal might not find the energy to attempt suicide until spring. Depressed people who don’t find their life trajectories aligning with a season that’s supposed to be all about happiness and renewal can spiral into an “energized despair,” as Deborah Serani writes in Scientific American.

There might also be biological explanations for the phenomenon. Among the more fascinating: tree pollen. There’s evidence that excess pollen in the air triggers the release of inflammatory proteins called cytokines into the upper airways, exacerbating mood disturbances in people who are prone to them. When scientists dumped tree pollen into the nasal cavities of rodents, the critters had more cytokine gene expression in their brains, and they become more anxious and socially withdrawn. An analysis in Denmark found that suicides increased by 13.2 percent when the pollen count was higher. [link]

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