Publication

Higher temperatures increase suicide rates in the United States and Mexico

Marshall Burke, Felipe González, Patrick Baylis, Sam Heft-Neal, Ceren Baysan, Sanjay Basu & Solomon Hsiang (2018). Higher temperatures increase suicide rates in the United States and Mexico, Nature Climate Change. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0222-x

Abstract

Linkages between climate and mental health are often theorized but remain poorly quantified. In particular, it is unknown whether the rate of suicide, a leading cause of death globally, is systematically affected by climatic conditions. Using comprehensive data from multiple decades for both the United States and Mexico, 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. This effect is similar in hotter versus cooler regions and has not diminished over time, indicating limited historical adaptation. Analysis of depressive language in >600 million social media updates further suggests that mental well-being deteriorates during warmer periods. We project that unmitigated climate change (RCP8.5) could result in a combined 9–40 thousand additional suicides (95% confidence interval) across the United States and Mexico by 2050, representing a change in suicide rates comparable to the estimated impact of economic recessions, suicide prevention programmes or gun restriction laws.