Climate Change

Increase in temperature will cause more suicides in US, Mexico: study

Climate change could be linked to a total of 14,020 excess suicides in the US and 7,460 excess suicides in Mexico by 2050, says a new study

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Wednesday 25 July 2018 | 07:26:32 AM

Whenever there are abnormally hot temperatures in a month, suicide rates tend to be higher compared with a month of normal average temperatures. Credit: Flickr

The links between physical health and rising temperatures have so far been well established. A recent study now warns that increase in temperatures could also adversely affect mental health.

A study published in recently in Nature Climate Change says that if climate change impacts are not mitigated, there will be an additional 9,000 to 40,000 suicides across the United States and Mexico by 2050.  

Whenever there are abnormally hot temperatures in a month, suicide rates tend to be higher compared with a month of normal average temperatures.

Suicide is one of the top 10 -15 causes of death globally and not many studies have linked suicide to changing climate. In the United States, suicide rate have risen sharply in recent years.

The authors say that the findings do not suggest that temperature is the only -- or most important -- factor associated with suicide.

The 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, nearly 45,000 people killed themselves in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Globally, close to 800,000 people die by suicide each year, and 78% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The researchers analysed the relationship between temperature and suicide using monthly data from National Vital Statistics System and National Institute of Statistics and Geography, spanning thousands of US counties and Mexican cities over multiple decades.  Suicide rates in the US were studied between 1968 and 2004 and in Mexico, between 1990 and 2010.

The researchers found that a 1-degree Celsius increase in average monthly temperature correlated with increases in the monthly suicide rate by 0.68% in the United States between 1968 and 2004, and by 2.1% in Mexico between 1990 and 2010.

The researchers say that by 2050, climate change could be linked to a total of 14,020 excess suicides in the US and 7,460 excess suicides in Mexico.

The researchers also say that there is a link between monthly temperature increase and depressive posts on social media. More than 622 million Twitter updates in the US between May 2014 and July 2015 were compared with their monthly temperature data.

A 1-degree Celsius increase in monthly average temperature increased the likelihood of a Twitter post expressing depressive language by 0.79% in one analysis and by 0.36% in another, say the researchers.

One of the limitations of the study was that the findings showed only an association between abnormal increases in temperature and suicide rates.

 

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IEP Resources:

The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health

Identifying climate drivers of infectious disease dynamics: recent advances and challenges ahead

Temperature and humidity based projections of a rapid rise in global heat stress exposure during the 21st century

Attributing human mortality during extreme heat waves to anthropogenic climate change

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