Study suggests air pollution increases suicide rates

Study suggests air pollution increases suicide rates
via FRANCE 24 English
Ryan General
29 days ago
A groundbreaking nationwide study in China has revealed a disturbing link between air pollution and suicide rates, particularly among elderly populations.
Key points:
  • In the study published in Nature Sustainability, researchers identified thermal inversions as a key atmospheric condition that traps air pollutants near the Earth’s surface, leading to increased suicide rates within a week of exposure.
  • The research team, led by co-authors Tamma Carleton and Peng Zhang, suggests that PM2.5 in air pollution may cause changes in brain function, leading to an increased risk of self-harm.
  • The findings suggest that air pollution disproportionately increases suicide risk in older adults, especially women, who are two and a half times more susceptible.
The details:
  • China’s actions against particulate pollution, particularly PM2.5, are estimated to have prevented between 13,000 and 79,000 suicides from 2013 to 2017, accounting for about 10% of the observed decline in suicide rates during that period.
  • The research team collected official demographic data and meteorological data to correlate over 140,000 weekly county-level suicide reports with air pollution levels across China. They used advanced statistical methods to isolate the causal relationship between cleaner air and lower suicide risks.
  • While the exact mechanisms behind the vulnerability are not fully understood, potential factors include cultural, behavioral and direct neurological effects of air pollution.
  • The findings point to the role of public and environmental policies in mitigating mental health crises, including suicide, beyond interventions at the individual level, said Carleton, an assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
Looking ahead:
  • The authors hope their study prompts more research on suicide prevention and air quality on a global scale, especially in developing nations with high pollution levels.
 
If you or anyone you know is at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.
 
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