Suicide is the nation’s 10th-leading cause of death and the rates continue to rise. A naturally occurring chemical in drinking water could offer an anti-suicidal effect, as per a new study.
The experts at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and King’s College London found that high levels of lithium in public drinking water were associated with a lower suicide rate. They believe that during the current pandemic situation and the consequent rise in the incidence of mental health conditions, accessing ways to improve community mental health and reducing the incidence of depression, anxiety, and suicide is very crucial.
They conducted a systematic review of all previous studies conducted in the U.S., U.K., Austria, Greece, Japan, and Lithuania and found that naturally occurring lithium levels in drinking water samples correlated with suicide rates across 1,286 regions in these nations.
Lithium carbonate and several other forms of this metal have been used to treat mental health conditions including manic depression and bipolar disorder. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Magic Ion’ since it helps reduce suicide risks in individuals suffering from mood disorders.
“It is promising that higher levels of trace lithium in drinking water may exert an anti-suicidal effect and have the potential to improve community mental health. The prevalence of mental health conditions and national suicide rates are increasing in many countries. Worldwide, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and suicide is the leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years,” MedicalXpress quoted the study’s lead author Professor Anjum Memon, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at BSMS, as saying.
Lithium is naturally found in food sources including vegetables, spices, grains, and drinking water. It is also found in trace amounts in all rocks and gets mobilized by weathering into soils, ground, and standing water, which in turn gets added to the public water supply.
The health benefits of this metal have been known for several centuries. An ancient native American sacred medicinal spring called ‘the Lithia Springs’ contained lithium-rich water which was renowned for its health benefits. Also, the popular soft drink 7-Up’s contained lithium when it was first created.
According to previous studies, lithium was associated with a reduced incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.