New research from Stanford University finds that higher temperatures are leading to more suicides. And by 2050, the study predicts, thousands of additional suicides will have occurred in North America alone due to the rising temperatures caused by climate change.
Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the study examined decades of county-level suicide data — nearly 1.5 million observations spanning all of the United States and Mexico — as well as data that tracked monthly temperatures in each area. The team used data going back as far as 1968.
According to the research, a monthly rise in temperature of 1 degree Celsius leads to “about a 1 to 2 percent increase in the suicide rate,” says Dr. Marshall Burke, assistant professor of earth system science at Stanford University and lead author of the study.
Burke says there is “emerging physiological evidence” that the parts of the brain involved with regulating emotion are also used when dealing with heat. While “there is a plausible link here,” he says, the mechanism linking heat to suicide remains an open question.
“We need a movement in this country, more than anywhere, that makes it unacceptable for political leaders to […] not meet their climate obligations, or to deny that climate change is even a real thing,” he says.
-WBUR, Justin Kaplan