DATE: July 23, 2018
SNIP: Unusually hot days cause the suicide rate to rise, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change. If a month is 1 degree Celsius warmer than normal, then its suicide rate will increase by 0.7 percent in the United States and 2.1 percent in Mexico.
“It’s sort of a brutal finding,” says Marshall Burke, a professor of earth science at Stanford University and one of the authors of the paper.
The finding has anxious implications for a world whose climate is rapidly changing. The authors project that roughly 14,000 people—and as many as 26,000—could die by suicide in the United States by 2050 if humanity does not reduce its emissions of greenhouse-gas pollution.
“‘Climate change is going to generate winners and losers’—this is a phrase you hear all the time,” Burke said. “But for this outcome, it’s all losers. There are no winners. We find these strong linear relationships everywhere when you crank up the temperature.”
“We don’t see a mitigating effect of air-conditioner adoption on any of these effects,” Burke said. “Even once you control for income, you still don’t see air-conditioner use come through as a factor. Suicide is a fundamentally different animal than these other types of mortality, like cardiac mortality, that you see in the literature.”