Giving Compass' Take:
- Researchers have found links to wildfire smoke and an increase in suicides in rural communities specifically, not seeing those same trends in urban places.
- What mental health supports exist for communities dealing with the aftermath of wildfires?
- Read about the long-term community impact of wildfires.
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Wildfire smoke travels wherever the wind flow takes it, and lingering fires can be physically and emotionally exhausting for residents along the path.
As wildfires become more common, many rural residents struggle to deal with the effects of pervasive air pollution, reports Claire Carlson of The Daily Yonder with John Upton and Kaitlyn Trudeau of Climate Central. "The smoke harms farms and recreation-based businesses, can be psychologically triggering for wildfire survivors, frequently drives residents indoors, and recent research showed it's associated with increases in rural suicides."
Ongoing exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to a litany of health issues. "It exacerbates asthma and worsens infections," the Yonder reports. "Tiny smoke particles move from lungs into bloodstreams and can directly affect brain health, with research out of the University of Montana connecting smoke exposure to the development of dementia."
A study published last fall in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences "linked smoke exposure with increases in suicides among rural populations, though not among urban ones," Carlson, Upton and Trudeau write. David Molitor, a health economist at the University of Illinois, who led the research, which drew on 13 years of smoke and federal suicide data to track mental health effects, told reporters, "In rural areas, we find that smoke days are significantly associated with increases in suicide rates."
Read the full article about wildfire smoke and public health by Heather Close at The Rural Blog.