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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 01:04 GMT
Olympics 'can cut suicide rates'
Sydney Opera House with the Olympic flag flying
Sydney celebrating the start of the Olympics in September 2000
If London succeeds in its bid to host the Olympics in 2012, it may also benefit from a fall in suicide rates.

Researchers found suicides in Australia fell in the run-up to the Sydney games in September 2000, rising sharply after they had finished.

They told a Royal College of Psychiatry conference the Games could create a communal sense of wellbeing.

Uniting to prepare for the event and the economic boost linked to the Games could be factors, the researchers said.

Sudden rise

Experts from the University of Birmingham, UK, and the University of Sydney in Australia looked at suicide rates in Sydney, New South Wales and Australia as a whole for 2000.

They also looked at suicide rates for the same areas in 1992, when the Olympics were held in Barcelona and 1996, when they were held in Atlanta.

It was found that the overall Australian suicide rate in 2000 was slightly lower at 12.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 13.3 in 1996 and 12.9 in 1992.

But the seasonal patterns were significantly different.

In the earlier years, suicide rates fluctuated over the course of the year, with a gradual rise around springtime (October).

But in 2000, they fell steadily up to September, before rising suddenly in October after the Games had finished.

The effect was strongest in Sydney, and in males, particularly in men aged 55 to 64.

The researchers say people there were directly involved in the preparations, and also benefited from a boost to the local economy due to the Games.

The same effect was seen, to a lesser extent, in suicide rates for the whole of New South Wales.

'National purpose'

Louise Morganstein, a researcher at the University of Birmingham who led the study, told BBC News Online: "One of the few factors that is known to reduce suicide rates is war.

"The decrease has been attributed to an atmosphere of national purpose.

"We were interested to see if a more positive event would have the same effect.

"What we found was a significant difference in seasonal patterns of rates."

This study was presented to the Forensic Psychiatry Residential Conference in Southampton.

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