Relationship of suicide rates with climate and economic variables in Europe during 2000-2012.

BACKGROUND: It is well known that suicidal rates vary considerably among European countries and the reasons for this are unknown, although several theories have been proposed. The effect of economic variables has been extensively studied but not that of climate. METHODS: Data from 29 European countries covering the years 2000-2012 and concerning male and female standardized suicidal rates (according to WHO), economic variables (according World Bank) and climate variables were gathered. The statistical analysis included cluster and principal component analysis and categorical regression. RESULTS: The derived models explained 62.4 % of the variability of male suicidal rates. Economic variables alone explained 26.9 % and climate variables 37.6 %. For females, the respective figures were 41.7, 11.5 and 28.1 %. Male suicides correlated with high unemployment rate in the frame of high growth rate and high inflation and low GDP per capita, while female suicides correlated negatively with inflation. Both male and female suicides correlated with low temperature. DISCUSSION: The current study reports that the climatic effect (cold climate) is stronger than the economic one, but both are present. It seems that in Europe suicidality follows the climate/temperature cline which interestingly is not from south to north but from south to north-east. This raises concerns that climate change could lead to an increase in suicide rates. The current study is essentially the first successful attempt to explain the differences across countries in Europe; however, it is an observational analysis based on aggregate data and thus there is a lack of control for confounders.