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Suicides On The Rise! Is Climate Change To Blame?

A Study featured in Scientific American suggests environmental changes due to climate change could lead to alterations in brain development and function. Researchers are particularly concerned about the effects of extreme weather events and pollution on cognitive abilities and mental health.

Ecological grief and eco-anxiety are terms describing the sense of loss or the anxiety people feel related to climate change, including the loss of a stable future (Panu).

A 1°C increase in air temperature has been associated with a 1.1–2.3% increase in suicides (33–36). In a 2022 study, Giacomini et al. found an increase in suicides in warmer months due to global warming and report that climatic factors were a greater determinant of suicidal behavior compared with economic factors. In fact up to roughly 1,600 additional suicides could occur each year because of climate change [Belova et al., 2022] In 2022, 70% of Americans who died by suicide were white males. Monty Miller, psychotherapist at Saint Luke's Behavioral Health Specialist, stated effects of cognitive dissonance, perceived persecution, lack of education, culture of gun ownership etc... in short white supremacist beliefs contribute about why suicide rates are higher in this population.

The suicide rate is more than twice as high among Whites compared to any other demographic except Asian women married to whites! White males in the 45-64 age range commit almost three times as many suicides (26.1 per 100,000) . CDC data demonstrates that men account for over 76% of suicide deaths in the United States each year. The CDC also found that there are 3.3 male suicide deaths for every female suicide death. On average, there are 132 suicides per day. White males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths in 2021and that number rises on average by approximately one and half percent each year. It is possible that given the demographic ratios populations most adversely affected by warming will see even higher instances of suicides. The total number of suicides in men was weakly and positively correlated with mean air temperature, mean of the highest air temperature, mean of the lowest air temperature and the highest air temperature. The total number of suicides for women was weakly and negatively correlated with land atmospheric pressure.

For all other demographics the number and age-adjusted rate of suicides had begun falling in 2019 across the U.S. — a turnaround that followed about two decades of worsening suicide rates since 1999. The decline continued for a second year through 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country. Suicide fell out of the top 10 leading causes of death for non white Americans. The average profile of an American using a gun for suicide is a married, white male over the age of 50 who is experiencing deteriorating health add to that a loss in income or death of a spouse and if the man is an avid gun collector he may have suicidal ideations regularly. For youth aged 13-17 years, suicide is roughly 50 percent lower in black children than in white children. From 2001-2015, for American youth aged 5-17 years, 1,661 suicide deaths in black youths and 13,341 suicide deaths in white youths occurred. During this period, the overall suicide rate was about 42 percent lower in black youth (1.26 per 100,000) than in white youth (2.16 per 100,000).In warmer temperatures suicide rates increase for Caucasians especially, leading to concerns about an uptick in suicides as the globe continues to warm. Assuming the 2020 population size, warming of 2°C could result in an annual increase of 2,660 additional suicide cases, corresponding to a PAF of 0.8%–5.1%.

The evidence implies that meteorological factors tend to affect the number of suicides. Evaluation of the risk factors for total number of suicides is obviously most important for preventing suicides. However, the link between meteorological parameters and suicides stratified by almost common types of suicide might be also important and that has not been fully explored. The annual economic value of avoiding these impacts is $3 billion (2023 U.S. dollars, 4% discount rate, and 2022 income level). Estimates based on linear temperature‐suicide relationship specifications are 8% larger than those based on binned temperature specifications. Accounting for displacement decreases estimates by 18%, while accounting for precipitation decreases estimates by 8%. Population growth and the future warming degree arrival year increases estimates by 20%–38%. Further research is needed to quantify and monetize other climate‐related mental health outcomes (e.g., anxiety and depression) and to characterize these risks in socially vulnerable populations such as rural farming, blue collar aging retirement communities or mining communities.

Maximum pressure was significantly lower in the days with higher suicidal risk, and changes in meteorological factors may be a trigger for suicide attempts. Psychogenic fever is a stress-related, psychosomatic disease especially seen in young women. Some patients develop extremely high core body temperature (up to 41°C) when they are exposed to emotional events, whereas others show persistent low-grade high Tc (37–38°C) during situations of chronic stress.


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