Climate Change, Drought and Rural Suicide in New South Wales, Australia: Future Impact Scenario Projections to 2099
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Mental health problems are associated with droughts, and suicide is one of the most tragic outcomes. We estimated the numbers of suicides attributable to drought under possible climate change scenarios for the future years until 2099, based on the historical baseline period 1970–2007. Drought and rural suicide data from the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) were analyzed for the baseline data period. Three global climate models and two representative concentration pathways were used to assess the range of potential future outcomes. Drought-related suicides increased among rural men aged 10–29 and 30–49 yrs in all modelled climate change scenarios. Rural males aged over 50 yrs and young rural females (10–29) showed no increased suicide risk, whereas decreased suicide rates were predicted for rural women of 30–49 and 50-plus years of age, suggesting resilience (according to the baseline historical relationship in those population sub-groups). No association between suicide and drought was identified in urban populations in the baseline data. Australian droughts are expected to increase in duration and intensity as climate change progresses. Hence, estimates of impacts, such as increased rural suicide rates, can inform mitigation and adaptation strategies that will help prepare communities for the effects of climate change.
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