Higher Natural Lithium Concentrations in Drinking Water = Lower Suicide Rates


According to a study by Nestor D. Kapusta, MD, from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, and colleagues, geographical areas with higher natural lithium concentrations in the drinking water have lower mortality rates from suicide. “We know much about therapeutic levels — 450 to 900 mg of lithium carbonate per day — but very little about natural levels,” said Dr. Kapusta. “One of the most interesting questions for me is why is the geographical distribution of suicides so persistent over decades in many countries? Why do we have regions which seem to be ‘suicide geysers,’ while others seem protective?”

A nationwide sample of 6460 lithium measurements was examined for association with suicide rates per 100 000 population and suicide standardized mortality ratios across all 99 Austrian districts. Results showed that the overall suicide rate as well as the suicide mortality ratio were inversely associated with lithium levels in drinking water and remained significant after sensitivity analyses and adjustment for socioeconomic factors. In the 10 most lithium-depleted regions in Austria, the suicide rate was 16 per 100,000, whereas in the 10 most lithium-rich regions; the suicide rate dropped to 11 per 100,000. Providing strong evidence that geographic regions with higher natural lithium concentrations in drinking water are associated with lower suicide mortality rates.


Lowry F. More Lithium in Drinking Water Equals Lower Suicide Rates. Medscape Medical News [Website] Published May 12, 2011. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/742589?src=mpnews&spon=12 Accessed May 13, 2011.

Kapusta ND, Mossaheb N, Etzersdorfer E, Hlavin G, Thau K, Willeit M, Praschak-Rieder N, Sonneck G, Leithner-Dziubas K. Lithium in drinking water and suicide mortality. Br J Psychiatry 2011;198:346-350; 336-337.