Increases in air pollution have strong links to increases in suicide rates, according to research by a team from the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Korea.
Publishing in PLOS One, the researchers examined pollution data from 251 sites in 79 cities in Korea, and compared it to suicide numbers in 16 regions. They compensated for other potential influences on suicide rates such as celebrity suicides and economic downturns.
“Of the 5 major pollutants examined, ozone concentrations had a powerful association with suicide rate, extending back to 4 weeks,” they wrote. “Over the range of 2 standard deviations (SD) around the annual mean ozone concentration, the adjusted suicide rate increased by an estimated 7.8% of the annual mean rate. Particulate matter pollution also had a significant effect, strongest with a 4-week lag, equivalent to 3.6% of the annual mean rate over the same 2 SD range that approximated the half of annual observed range.”
“These results strongly suggest deleterious effects of ozone and particulate matter pollution on the major public health problem of suicide,” the researchers concluded.
Kim, Youngdon, Woojae Myung, Hong-Hee Won, Sanghong Shim, Hong Jin Jeon, Junbae Choi, Bernard J. Carroll, and Doh Kwan Kim. “Association between Air Pollution and Suicide in South Korea: A Nationwide Study.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 2 (February 18, 2015): e0117929. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117929. (Full text)