Leo Sher, M.D.
A research paper, “Lithium levels in the public drinking water supply and risk of suicide: A pilot study” is published in the September, 2017 issue of the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology (1). We examined a relation between lithium levels in the drinking water and suicide rates in Lithuania. Lithuania with population of about 3 million in the beginning of 2014 had the highest suicide rate in the Europe in 2014: 31.7 suicides per 100,000 people (1). This was the first study of an association between lithium levels in the drinking water and suicide rates in Eastern Europe.
The average lithium level in water samples was 10.9 (SD 9.1) μg/L. It ranged from 0.48 to 35.53 μg/L. We found that higher levels of lithium in public drinking water were associated with lower suicide rates in men. The results of this study are consistent with previous observations that lithium levels in the drinking water are negatively associated with suicide in men (2,3).
High suicide rates in men are an important public health issue (4). Studies of the psychobiology of suicidal behavior in men are merited.
- Liaugaudaite V, Mickuviene N, Raskauskiene N, Naginiene R, Sher L. Lithium levels in the public drinking water supply and risk of suicide: A pilot study. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2017 Sep;43:197-201.
- Ishii N, Terao T, Araki Y, Kohno K, Mizokami Y, Shiotsuki I, Hatano K, Makino M, Kodama K, Iwata N. Low risk of male suicide and lithium in drinking water. J Clin Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;76(3):319-26.
- Shiotsuki I, Terao T, Ishii N, Takeuchi S, Kuroda Y, Kohno K, Mizokami Y, Hatano K, Tanabe S, Kanehisa M, Iwata N, Matusda S. Trace lithium is inversely associated with male suicide after adjustment of climatic factors. J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 1;189:282-6.
- Sher L. Suicide in men. J Clin Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;76(3):e371-2.