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Monday, October 19, 2015

Born Late In School Year - Higher Suicide Rate

Born in England, but raised in Canada—I have a neutral Canadian English accent and don't say oot and aboot or eh—I was one of those kids whose birthdays was late in the year in November, with my son born even later in December.

For kids born on January 1, they would have to wait an entire year before beginning school in Grade 1.

It meant that we were and are younger than our respective classmates - generally speaking. It was worse for me, as I was also a year ahead, but whatever…

In Japan, researchers hypothesize that for Japanese kids born in late winter, IE January 1- April 1, these kids have a 30 percent higher chance of committing suicide than their peers.

In Japan, the school year starts on the first Monday of April… you enter Grade 1 if you are six years old by April 1 of that year.

If you are born on April 2 - you wait until next year (it's similar to the West's January 1 date).

So… Japanese kid's born between January 1 and April 1, are generally the youngest in their grade. (The same is true in the West, but it's for kids born between September 1 and December 31. Got it?).

An Osaka-based research team headed by associate professor Matsubayashi Tetsuya (surname first), working with a U.S. group from Syracuse University, says that this group of late birthers is behind its peers in three ways:
  1. physically; 
  2. mentally; and 
  3. emotionally.
It is because of this, these younger kids have a higher likelihood of falling behind their peers in sports and academics, which causes feelings of stress in some students, which could push them to commit suicide.

It sounds like a leap - but the researchers have numbers to back up the hypothesis.

Looking at people born between 1974 and 1985… and then looking at those who killed themselves between the ages of 15-25… and then separating the suicides by the date of birth, they found that:
  • Japanese students born between March 26-April 1 had a high incidence of suicide than those born at any other time of the year.
Japanese research head Matsubayashi says that Japan should stop the current method of determining when a kid starts school, and go back to the time when you went when you were ready.

Being ever so smart as a four-year-old, no Catholic or Public school in Toronto wanted to accept me as a Grade 1 student - regardless of the aptitude I had shown. 

But my parents found a private school that would accept me. And I excelled in school until I entering Grade 5. Between the ages of 8-1/2 to 23, I struggled to find my niche. Would I have been better served if I had gone to school per my age, versus being ready?

Some kids are ready at age 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 or maybe never?!

Being too old or too young relative to one's peers can be an emotional downer (eventually) for the kid, as well as the peers.

Okay… let's look at the research itself…

Now… not everyone born between those late dates is going to be inferior in size, mental acuity or emotional balance.

I did suffer emotionally by bullying thanks in part to my size, which affected my school marks (but not how smart I really was).

But many others, did and do not.

One of the HUGE factors that these researchers are not either taking into account or bothering to discuss, is WHEN these results were from: 1974-1985.

In Japan and the U.S., there must have been different levels of stress for kids born in that era.

Perhaps, thanks to the stress of the U.S.S.R. and Oil Crisis or disco, American kids had different levels of stress… or

... in Japan… in the 1990s, when the kids were around 15 or so… and Japan's economy went into the toilet… maybe they felt economic stress that led to suicidal tendencies?

Does the data look at the social strata of the boys and girls? Were the parents well-off? Educated? Did they eat well? Was drug-use prevalent? Where in Japan or the U.S. did they live? Urban versus rural? Did it make a difference?

There are far too many variables for me, that I found unanswered.

How many kids did they include in the data cull?

I'm sure all of that information is out there… it just wasn't presented in the news story I saw over at

It's not their fault anyway, 90 percent of all surveys are 50 percent correct. Double-speak, an ability to ignore that which does not fit into one's hypothesis… it's the norm.

I don't doubt that the data presented in this research is correct. The data is correct.

Stating that more people commit suicide who were born in a particular part of the year... well, I just think there are far too many variables to question the strength of the hypothesis.

Back in college, working for the school newspaper, two friends and I created a Sex Survey, asking the students of Humber College a bit about their sexual habits.

Of the some 500 people who responded - how many should we have discounted immediately because they were lying?

I also know that we were able to manipulate the data to fit a more interesting (to us) end result.

Granted the suicide data found by the research team has the definitive fact that so many people committed suicide… but they fail to examine WHY?

It could be a coincidence that more kids committed suicide who were born during that period…

I have no idea why I love to present the data of so many surveys. At first I'm excited, because it sounds plausible… and then, as I start to write about it, the cynic in me begins to question everything.

The article reports on the Japanese suicide-thing… but does the U.S. data come up with an equivalent?

Don't believe everything you hear or read - except for this blog.

I'll almost never try and confuse you most of the time - ever. I mean it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I included the homemade (not by me) motorcycle poster - mostly because of it's anti-Japanese motorcycle comment. Ha!

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