Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Finland & Suicide: Settled Medical Science!

Medicine progresses and new discoveries are made though not necessary all that often. Compare with transistor and electronic technology medicine is the tortoise.

Yet, there are things we thought were a given at Medical School. Certainly, functions of well known Vitamins such as A, D & C. Vaccination against Smallpox. Endocrine conditions such as Thyrotoxicosis and Type 1 Diabetes. Stress and Peptic Ulcer is more or less a given. This is the phenomenon of “settled medical science”, next topic please.

We have at our school a wonderful teacher in endocrinology. Coming to think of it, a great one in haematology, GI disorders and I am not even venturing out to other specialties. Of course all our teachers were British trained and many became really the parents of medicine in Hong Kong.

We were so proud of our teachers that we have acquired a degree of arrogance about certain areas of medicine. We certainly know all there is to know about Thyroid, Diabetes and Thalassaemia. Peptic Ulcer is an interesting one as our Professor, Old Mac is not happy and decided that we should only call it Ulcer Syndrome, and as with other syndrome diagnosis, it implies that we still do not know. It has taken nearly another three decades before someone else proved that he was right.

 September 2012 ©2012 Am Ang Zhang

So in 1996, I was in Finland for a World Congress in Infant Psychiatry more or less during the longest daylight week of the whole year. Walking back with some Finnish Child Psychiatrists back to our University Accommodation at well past 11 at night when it was still bright, my Finnish colleagues jokingly said that in Finland, people started contemplating suicide after the Summer Solstice.

That Finland has the highest suicide rate of any first world country is well known and ever since the popularity of the diagnosis of SAD, it was naturally assumed that darkness in the Finnish Winter must have contributed to their famous suicide rate. I was back to Finland in 2012, this time for an extended Autumn holiday. Researching before travel uncovered some medical information that surprised me.

Extensive research in Finland[1] revealed that the highest rates of suicide started in May peaking at Summer solstice and tailing off symmetrically in July.

Our key finding of statistical significance demonstrates the increased suicide mortality on nationwide level in Finland during the period from May 14th to July 25th. This 76-day period covers symmetrically both sides of summer solstice. During this period there is only 1 to 4 hours of darkness during the night in Helsinki but no darkness at all in Oulu.

This is a high quality research that came out in 2011 in a country where suicide rate is high although in recent years, they have done much in terms of improving mental health care that has quite dramatically moved Finland out of the top few countries.

As I have stated earlier, there are subjects we studied in medical school and had the confident impression that our knowledge on some conditions were complete! Now let us concentrate on other newer conditions. Settled Medical Science indeed.


Feb 19, 2013 ... Adult A.D.H.D. & Faking: Real Psychosis & Suicide. Adult A.D.H.D. is open to faking and more so by medical students. In children, it was my ...

Jun 6, 2013 ... Stephen Fry has disclosed that he attempted suicide last year and only survived the “close run thing” when a colleague found him unconscious ...




[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206457/

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