Suicide is a major cause of death in the First World. In countries like the USA, in fact, there are between six and ten times more suicides than homicides, and the majority of deaths by suicide correspond to men. For this reason, this study carried out by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience of King’s College London has particular relevance.
The study suggests that natural lithium in public drinking water may have an anti-suicide effect.
The study included a systematic review and meta-analysis of all previous studies on the subject, conducted in Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States, which correlated natural lithium levels in drinking water samples and suicide rates in 1,286 regions/counties/cities in these countries.
Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study compiled research from around the world and found that geographic areas with relatively high levels or concentrations of lithium in public drinking water had correspondingly lower suicide rates.
Professor Anjum Memon, BSMS President of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine and lead author of the study, noted:
It is promising that higher levels of lithium in drinking water can have an anti-suicide effect and have the potential to improve community health. The prevalence of mental health conditions and national suicide rates are increasing in many countries. Worldwide, more than 800,000 people die from suicide each year, and suicide is the leading cause of death among people ages 15-24.
The lithium is used widely and effectively as a medicament for the treatment and prevention of manic episodes and depression, stabilizes mood and reduces the risk of suicide in people with disorders of mood. Its anti-aggressive properties can help reduce impulsivity, aggression, violent criminal behaviour, and chronic substance abuse.
Lithium is a natural element and is found in varying amounts in vegetables, grains, spices, and drinking water. It is present in small quantities in practically all rocks, and is mobilized by weathering in soils, groundwater and standing water, and therefore in the public water supply.
The health benefits and healing powers of natural lithium in water have been known for centuries. Recent studies have also linked lithium with a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. This increases the potential of its preventive use to combat the risk of dementia.
The next steps in our study could include testing this hypothesis through randomized community trials of lithium supplementation of the water supply, particularly in communities (or settings) with a proven high prevalence of mental health conditions, violent criminal behavior, chronic abuse of substances and suicide risk. This may provide additional evidence to support the hypothesis that lithium could be used at the community level to reduce or combat the risk of these conditions.