Lithium levels in drinking water and risk of suicide

Br J Psychiatry. 2009 May;194(5):464-5; discussion 446. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.055798.


Although lithium is known to prevent suicide in people with mood disorders, it is uncertain whether lithium in drinking water could also help lower the risk in the general population. To investigate this, we examined lithium levels in tap water in the 18 municipalities of Oita prefecture in Japan in relation to the suicide standardised mortality ratio (SMR) in each municipality. We found that lithium levels were significantly and negatively associated with SMR averages for 2002-2006. These findings suggest that even very low levels of lithium in drinking water may play a role in reducing suicide risk within the general population.

MeSH terms

  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Lithium / analysis*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Lithium