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Scientists Find Disturbing Link Between Drought and Suicide

Farmer with handful of dry soil
Chris Hendrickson, Getty Images

There appears to be a creepy correlation between extended periods of drought and high rates of suicide.

Researchers in Australia say that while they are not exactly certain why it is that excessive, lingering drought makes people want to kill themselves, they do think it likely stems from the toll it takes on farmers and the human psyche.

The new study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was developed by analyzing suicide and drought statistics in New South Wales between 1970 and 2007.

What researchers found was that rural men ages 30 to 49 were 15 percent likely to commit harry carry while in the grips of a scorching drought. Researchers also say that even though increased suicide rates were not as prevalent in rural men ages 10 to 29, the risk was still there.

While a study released in 2002 that analyzed data from 1901 to 1998 showed that women living in rural areas of Australia were actually more prone to commit suicide than men were, researchers say their findings actually suggest that women living in rural areas are at a decreased risk for suicide during periods of drought.

Surprisingly, there does not appear to be any connection between drought and higher suicide rates in urban areas, like Sydney.

Even though the United States is experiencing one of the worst droughts since the 1950s, Australia is currently the only country with studies that examine the link between drought and suicide.

Study experts say that while weather has been known to have an effect on our moods, for better or worse, their research indicates that financial burdens on farmers and farming communities due to failing crops are likely responsible for the increased suicide rates in rural areas.

They hope that their findings will help public officials in better planning suicide prevention campaigns.

[Live Science]

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