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Climate Change And Mental Health: Rising Temperatures Increase Suicide Rates

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Climate change apparently also affects people's mental health. Findings of a new study have linked rising temperatures to increasing suicide rates in the United States and Mexico.

Hotter Temperatures And Suicide Rates

In the study published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, researchers compared historical temperature and suicide data over several decades and found a strong correlation between hotter weather and increased incidents of suicide.

Solomon Hsiang, from the University of California-Berkeley, and colleagues projected that a 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in temperature by the year 2050 could lead to a 1.4 percent increase in America's suicide rate, and a 2.3 percent rise in Mexico's suicide rates.

They predicted that the hotter temperatures may lead to an additional 21,000 suicides in two countries by 2050.

"We find that suicide rates rise 0.7% in US counties and 2.1% in Mexican municipalities for a 1 °C increase in monthly average temperature," Hsiang and colleagues wrote in their study. "This effect is similar in hotter versus cooler regions and has not diminished over time, indicating limited historical adaptation."

Researchers have long known that conflict and violence tend to peak during warmer months. However, the researchers said that the new study provides evidence that in addition to hurting others, some people also hurt themselves.

The researchers also looked at the languages used in over half a billion tweets to investigate if hotter temperatures can influence mental well-being. They found strong evidence that hot weather also increases the use of depressive language on social media.

Hsiang said that heat appears to have a profound effect on the human mind and how people decide to inflict harm.

"This may be the first decisive evidence that climate change will have a substantial effect on mental health in the United States and Mexico, with tragic human costs," Hsiang said. "We've been studying the effects of warming on conflict and violence for years, finding that people fight more when it's hot."

Risk For Suicidal Tendencies

Potential factors can contribute to people's overall risk for suicide. Mental health experts, for instance, have warned that high-profile celebrity suicides may also lead to a spike in suicidal tendencies.

Researchers of the new study, however, said that temperatures may have an influence on how people perceive, evaluate, and act on their situations.

Suicide rates in the United States have increased by 25 percent since 1999 with more than 40,000 Americans taking their own life in 2016.

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