Suicide and Ambient Temperature: A Multi-Country Multi-City Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2019 Nov;127(11):117007. doi: 10.1289/EHP4898. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Background: Previous literature suggests that higher ambient temperature may play a role in increasing the risk of suicide. However, no multi-country study has explored the shape of the association and the role of moderate and extreme heat across different locations.

Objectives: We examined the short-term temperature-suicide relationship using daily time-series data collected for 341 locations in 12 countries for periods ranging from 4 to 40 y.

Methods: We conducted a two-stage meta-analysis. First, we performed location-specific time-stratified case-crossover analyses to examine the temperature-suicide association for each location. Then, we used a multivariate meta-regression to combine the location-specific lag-cumulative nonlinear associations across all locations and by country.

Results: A total of 1,320,148 suicides were included in this study. Higher ambient temperature was associated with an increased risk of suicide in general, and we observed a nonlinear association (inverted J-shaped curve) with the highest risk at 27°C. The relative risk (RR) for the highest risk was 1.33 (95% CI: 1.30, 1.36) compared with the risk at the first percentile. Country-specific results showed that the nonlinear associations were more obvious in northeast Asia (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan). The temperature with the highest risk of suicide ranged from the 87th to 88th percentiles in the northeast Asian countries, whereas this value was the 99th percentile in Western countries (Canada, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States) and South Africa, where nearly linear associations were estimated. The country-specific RRs ranged from 1.31 (95% CI: 1.19, 1.44) in the United States to 1.65 (95% CI: 1.40, 1.93) in Taiwan, excluding countries where the results were substantially uncertain.

Discussion: Our findings showed that the risk of suicide increased with increasing ambient temperature in many countries, but to varying extents and not necessarily linearly. This temperature-suicide association should be interpreted cautiously, and further evidence of the relationship and modifying factors is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cities
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Philippines / epidemiology
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Risk
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vietnam / epidemiology