The Global Mental Health Burden of Historical Climate Change

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UC Berkeley-UCB
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Climate Change Science

The subaward covers the global mental health burden of historical climate change project for principal investigator Tamma Carleton and co-author Jingyuan Wang (Northwestern). Financial support is focused on hiring a research specialist to support the project. In this project, we will use a newly compiled, globally-comprehensive dataset to empirically quantify possible relationships between suicide and climate, and to investigate possible mechanisms linking these two phenomena. The goal of the project is to then use these empirical results to assess the spatially differentiated impact of anthropogenic climate change on suicide rates to date. This work will leverage a new dataset we have assembled that combines countrylevel average suicide rates for all countries globally with age- and gender-specific suicide information at sub-national scale for 46 countries covering 34.3% of the global population. Climate change attribution analysis will rely on high-resolution climate model output from the “Detection and Attribution Model Intercomparison Project” (DAMIP). This climate model ensemble will allow us to construct estimates of what suicide rates could have been, had greenhouse gas emissions been held fixed at preindustrial levels.

Our novel dataset, in combination with climate econometric techniques adapted to this context, will allow us to untangle direct effects of warming temperatures on suicide propensity from economically-driven climate-induced suicides at global scale. The extent to which each of these mechanisms dominates the suicide-temperature relationship has been debated in the literature, with mixed findings across diverse contexts. Existing studies in this literature cover a few countries at a time, use data from a handful of urban areas across many countries, and/or do not identify the mechanisms through which suicide is influenced by climate. We are aware of no existing study that quantifies the impact of climate change to date on the temporal evolution of suicide rates. Throughout our analysis, we will focus particular attention on collecting data for and identifying relationships in developing country contexts, where incomes are tightly linked to agricultural production and climate has the potential to raise suicide rates by threatening the viability of agricultural livelihoods.