Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Link Found Between Drought and Suicide Risk

Psychiatrists who treat patients in rural areas enduring drought conditions may need to be alert to rising risks for suicide among their patients. This caution comes from a study of almost four decades of drought cycles in Australia in which researchers at the Australian National University analyzed climate data and suicide rates in rural areas from 1970 to 2007. This rising suicide risk in times of drought was greater in men than women, according to the study, which was published online August 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found an increased relative suicide risk of 15% for males ages 30 to 49 when the drought index rose. The risk for women declined. They also found an increased risk in spring and early summer, noting that this seasonal increase has been documented in other areas as well. The researchers said that this link between drought and higher suicide risk "warrants public health focus and concern, as does the annual, predictable increase seen each spring and early summer."

They did note that "suicide is a complex phenomenon with many interacting social, environmental, and biological causal factors," and thus
"the relationship between drought and suicide is best understood using a holistic framework."

Scientists have also uncovered a link between suicide and air pollutants. Read more about that research in Psychiatric News.

(image: mycola/Shutterstock.com)


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