A new study links suicide to air pollution, finding spikes in the suicide rate following peak pollution levels in Utah.
Utah lies in a region of the Unites States dubbed the “suicide belt“, where rates are higher than in the rest of the country.
The state has topped the country in a depression index, recently devised by Perry Renshaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah.
Paradoxically, it has also topped surveys as the “happiest state” in the Union, with job satisfaction among the highest in the US.
Now scientists think they may have found an explanation in the affects of pollution, which is very high in the state’s capital and most populous city.
The topography of Salt Lake City makes it prone to temperature inversion, which traps pollution close to the ground for extended periods.
The possibility of environmental triggers for suicide has been raised before.
The suggestion is that physical inflammation might be to blame, when the immune system goes into overdrive.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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