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Featured News Suicide link to climate change unfounded

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Fri, 28 Apr 2023

Suicide link to climate change unfounded

Suicide
Image: João Ferrão

A James Cook University researcher says there is no evidence climate change is associated with increased suicide rates, and health administrators who believe there is may be prioritising a carbon net zero policy over patient health.

JCU's Andrew Amos is Chair of the Queensland Section of Rural Psychiatry, RANZ College of Psychiatrists.

His research looked at the design of scientific articles supporting an association between climate change and increased rates of suicide.

He said the articles had been used in policy documents to advocate for radical changes to healthcare systems in pursuit of decarbonisation.

“The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has recommended all Australian governments and healthcare systems commit to delivering net zero healthcare by 2040. The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) says medical colleges should champion climate change action, including decarbonising colleges, hospitals, and health systems.

“The MJA notes this conflicts with the common sense position of many health stakeholders,” said Dr Amos.

He said the strongest claims linking climate change and negative mental health outcomes have been made for suicide.

“The research cited to suggest an association between climate change and increased suicide does no such thing. None of the articles collected in the review has a design capable of investigating whether there is an association between temperature increases caused by climate change and rates of suicide,” said Dr Amos.

He said the study does not attempt to establish that there is no relationship between climate change and mental health outcomes, only that the cited evidence does not establish a relationship.

“Policy recommendations for radical changes in healthcare services have been based on misrepresented evidence. This analysis lends weight to the common sense view that the priority of health and mental health systems should be high quality health care, not climate change action.”

Link to paper here.

Contacts

Dr Andrew Amos
E: Andrew.amos@jcu.edu.au