University of Utah study finds suicide may be linked to air pollution

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A University of Utah study published on Tuesday in The American Journal of Epidemiology suggests air pollution may increase suicide rates.

A bottle of nitrogen dioxide, from file.
Image: "Greenhorn1".

The team analysed suicide records for over 1,500 people from Salt Lake County, Utah from 2000 through 2010. Comparing to air pollution exposure in the three days prior to death the scientists noticed an increase of 20% for deaths amongst those exposed to high nitrogen dioxide.

High exposure to fine particulates in the three days prior to death led to a 5% increase. For men, the rates when exposed to nitrogen dioxide were 25% higher than average. Middle-aged men were particularly affected.

The scientists believe air pollution combines with other factors to increase suicides, rather than triggering them itself. Doctor Amanda Bakian, one of the researchers, said "As suicide risk was found to differ by age and gender, this suggests that vulnerability to suicide following air pollution exposure is not uniform across Salt Lake County residents and that some Salt Lake County residents are more vulnerable than others."

Bakian said research to identify what made individuals susceptible to increased suicide risk after air pollution exposure is planned.


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