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A study shows that air pollution from wildfire smoke increases suicide in rural areas

U.S. Forest Service
Pollution globally has increased over the last 20 years because of wildfires.

The study shows that not only do suicide rates increase among rural men as air pollution increases, but that there is a rural-urban divide.

The paper was co-authored by David Molitor, professor at the University of Illinois and the Director of the Gies Health Initiative.

“When we look in urban areas, we do not see any evidence of a relationship between air pollution increases and suicide rates among any of these demographic groups,” Molitor said.

Molitor explains there are various components to consider that occur with air pollution advisories and smoke plumes, including physical effects, economic impact, and behavioral changes. While these components may contribute to the rise in suicides, it is not clear how, or why, only certain populations are affected.

Over the past decades, air pollution rates have decreased while suicide rates have increased. The study suggests that as wildfires continue, suicide rates could increase.

To read the full paper go to: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2221621120

If you are thinking of suicide reach out to the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 9-8-8.

Cole is a graduate student reporter enrolled in the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS.
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