Air pollution is associated with higher risk of suicide, a local research team has found.
The research team led by Min Kyung-bok, a professor of preventive medicine at Seoul National University’s College of Medicine, analyzed the relationship between air pollution and suicide risk by tracking more than 260,000 people’s data in the National Health Insurance Service’s sample cohort between 2002 and 2013.
Although many studies have shown that air pollutants cause various diseases, long-term follow-up studies on the relationship between air pollution and suicide risk have been rare.
The researchers used the geographic information system to estimate air pollution in residential areas, classified the exposure levels of air pollutants into four groups, and measured the risk of suicide among the most exposed group and the least exposed one.
The team found that the group most exposed to find dust had three to four times higher risk of suicide than the least exposed group. In the case of nitrogen dioxide exposure, the most exposed group had 1.3-1.5 times higher suicide risk. Those who were most exposed to sulfur dioxide had 1.2-1.6 times higher suicide risk than the least exposed.
There was also a significant difference in suicide risk between the urban and non-urban areas, and between disease and non-disease groups. Those in the urban areas and disease groups had a higher risk of suicide, the study showed.
“Many studies have suggested that air pollution was associated with higher risk of suicide. Our study is academically significant because it was a long-term, follow-up research that showed an association between air pollution and increased risk of suicide,” Min said.
The latest study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea’s Basic Science and Engineering Research Program, and published in the online edition of an environmental journal, Science of the Total Environment.