Sol, taiyou, tài yáng, the sun. All names used to identify the yellow dwarf star at the center of our solar system. (Even the term solar system itself was derived from the star's original Latin name!) Sure, we rely on the sun for far more on a daily basis than any mere blog post could cover, and it could be reasonably argued that we wouldn't exist if not for the sun. But the truth is - you know it as well as I do - the sun is our enemy.
Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carinoma, Melanoma. The three most common types of skin cancer. For much of human history, the sun has waged war with our very existence as a species through all forms of this particular cancer - largely suffered as a result of excessive exposure to the sun and the resulting DNA damage. Granted, skin cancer can generally be prevented through proper use of sunblock and efforts to avoid exposure to an excess of ultraviolet light. But then, we human beings are creatures of excess. We love to go outside and bake ourselves in the sunlight until we're extra crispy (Sometimes applying a secret recipe of 11 different herbs and spices for flavor), and to generally absorb every bit of the sun's rays we can. Bad idea. Perhaps, to the sun, we are the cancer.
But that's not the main focus of this post.
Last summer, director M. Night Shyamalan released yet another terrible film, The Happening, which focused on tree gas turning off the one chemical in the human brain that disabled our innate natural desire to immediately kill ourselves at all times. Because we've got a long ways to go in creating a more environmentally friendly society. Good message, terrible movie, terrible neuroscience, terrible basic concept. (If you want to make a good movie about nature taking revenge on humanity, it needs to be more of a modern day battle of Isengard from the Lord of the Rings - yes, trees uprooting themselves, walking into our cities, and beating the everloving crap out of everything. That would be a
In reality, studies have recently indicated that excessive sunlight can increase risk of suicide - particularly as a result of the insomnia resulting from long summer days in countries like Greenland, where the sun doesn't set at all between the end of April and the end of August in parts of the country.
People like sunlight, and most tend to prefer it to the darkness of night. As such, it's a commonly held belief that suicide rates rise during fall and winter as a result of the lengthening of night and the coldness of its darkness. Constant sunlight like Greenland suffers for a significant portion of each year interferes with natural circadian rhythms. And sleep deprivation can easily wreck anyone's mental health.
When distressed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a quick fix more effective than suicide. By WHO measures, 877,000 people commit suicide every year. And for each of these deaths, 10-40 attempts are made. Puts things into perspective in regards to just how many people look for a way out each year, no?
Scientists have previously linked sleep disturbance with suicidal tendencies in adolescents and people with psychiatric disorders, though no clear findings have been made linking these issues all the way to the general populace. (Yet.)
A team of Swedish scientists studied the seasonal variation of suicides in Greenland from 1968 to 2002 and discovered that suicides tended to notably cluster in the summer - especially in the north, where the populace suffers through the aforementioned three months of incessant sunlight. Said suicides make up 82% of the yearly suicides in that region, are usually committed by young men, and are almost exclusively violent, including: shooting, hanging, and jumping from high places. These deaths accounted for nearly 95% of suicides at that time of the year.
Neuroscientific speculation is that the excessive sunlight exposure creates an imbalance in serotonin - a brain chemical linked to mood - which could lead to impulsiveness that, when paired with severe sleep deprivation, could lead to suicidal behavior. But in this case, light itself seems to just be one of many affecting factors in the tragic circumstances of suicide.
So yes, while the sun can technically be your friend and healthy for you - we all need Vitamin D, after all - it's still our enemy. We need the sun to live and maintain our health, but that which sustains us can also destroy us. Be wary of the Deathsphere! Always be wary. And wear lots of sunblock. Tanning doesn't really seem to be a good idea, either, from the health perspective. No matter how much you may like the extra color.
Yes, I'm positive you guys were just dying for another consecutive death-themed post. I'll try to find a different topic for the next one. (And try to post a bit more often again soon.)