Don't Jump! Japanese Use Blue Lighting to Reduce Suicides

By Nina Bai | December 12, 2008 1:24 pm

blue lightsFeeling stressed or sad? Before you succumb to the blues, try standing under a blue light. Several cities around the world claim to have reduced suicides, crime, and even traffic accidents by installing blue lights in the public spaces.

In Glasgow, Scotland, blue streetlights installed in 2000 have reduced street crimes noticeably. In Japan, a country notorious for its high suicide rates—authorities say in 2007 alone there were 640 suicides attempted by jumping in front of oncoming trains—two railroad companies have turned to light therapy. After blue lights were installed on station platforms and near railway crossings, the number of suicide attempts dropped to zero. Also in Japan, hundreds of blue lights have been installed along highways and rest stops. An expressway operator said trash cans near blue lights received 20 percent less garbage.

U.S. suicide rates, meanwhile, have steadily increased in recent years. Might it be a good idea to flood the Golden Gate Bridge or Wall Street with blue light? So far, there’s been no scientific confirmation of whether or not blue lighting prevents suicide or criminal behavior. However, research has shown that blue light therapy can help treat seasonal affective disorder. A scientific study in 2005 that claimed blue uniforms gave judo players a psychological advantage was later refuted.

Prof. Tsuneo Suzuki thinks the restraining effects of blue lighting could simply be due to its weirdness: “There are a number of pieces of data to prove blue has a calming effect upon people. However, it’s an unusual color for lighting, so people may just feel like avoiding standing out by committing crimes or suicide under such unusual illumination. It’s a little risky to believe that the color of lighting can prevent anything.”

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Image: flickr / Ken@Okinawa

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