Lithium in drinking water lowers the suicide rate

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Lower suicide rate due to lithium in drinking water

Even the small amount of lithium in drinking water can significantly lower the suicide rate in the population, scientists from the University of Vienna report in the May issue of the specialist journal "British Journal of Psychiatry". The researchers compared the number of suicides in 99 Austrian districts with the lithium content of drinking water there. The result: With increasing lithium content in drinking water, the suicide rate in the population decreased.

As a trace element in drinking water, lithium, even in very small amounts, helps to significantly lower the suicide rate in the population, reports the research team led by Dr. Nestor Kapusta from the University Clinic for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at the University of Vienna. For the first time, scientifically reliable proof of the positive effect of the trace element contained in drinking water on the human psyche has been achieved, emphasized study leader Dr. Kapusta.

High lithium content in drinking water lowers the suicide rate As part of the study on the effects of lithium on the suicide rate in the population, the scientists took 6,460 drinking water samples in 99 Austrian districts and compared them with the suicide rates on site. The result was clear: the higher the lithium level in drinking water, the lower the suicide rate, the researchers write. The effects were also confirmed when other socio-economic factors that could have an impact on the rate (e.g. income ratios) were taken into account, explained Dr. Kapusta and colleagues continue. The fact that lithium has a positive effect on the psyche has long been known in the specialist world and lithium-containing preparations are used in psychotherapy, for example, for the treatment of bipolar affect disorders, manias and depression. Lithium-containing medicines are also occasionally used for the extremely painful cluster headache. However, the dosages of lithium in the previous therapeutic use were usually around a hundred times higher than the natural occurrence in drinking water, the scientists at the University of Vienna explained. Apparently, even such small amounts of lithium can have positive effects on health and psyche.

Enrich lithium with drinking water in the future? "What is fascinating and new" about the current study results is, according to Dr. Kapusta, "that lithium in natural quantities as a trace element could have measurable effects on health." However, it remains "completely unclear how natural lithium has such a strong physiological effect in drinking water, even though it is dosed 100 times weaker, so to speak" than in the previous therapeutic use. According to the Austrian experts, this raises some new, exciting questions about how the mechanism works. However, the researchers expressly warn against enriching the drinking water with lithium based on the new findings in order to reduce suicides. "Clinical studies and methodologically complex cohort studies are required to make such a recommendation," emphasized Dr. Kapusta. For example, the question of possible side effects remains unanswered. According to the experts, a recent study indicates that the lithium content in drinking water can cause a slight increase in thyroid levels. It cannot be ruled out that, in addition to the positive effects, higher lithium values ​​in drinking water can also have negative consequences for the health of the population. "Our results will therefore certainly stimulate numerous other investigations," concludes Dr. Kapusta and colleagues.

Is lithium generally life-prolonging? A German-Japanese research team led by Prof. Dr. Michael Ristow, who holds the chair of human nutrition at the Institute of Nutritional Sciences at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, only caused a sensation in February with the results of the study that the intake of the trace element lithium generally prolongs life. In the online edition of the specialist journal "European Journal of Nutrition", the researchers reported that two independent studies had found that lithium intake in low concentrations had a life-extending effect on both the model organism of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans and on humans. The researchers had analyzed the general death rate in 18 Japanese communities, with the lithium content of tap water being recorded in parallel. Dr. Ristow and colleagues state that "the death rate is significantly lower in the communities where there is more lithium in tap water". Research results were also confirmed in the second experiment, in which the effect of the lithium contained in the drinking water on the model organism of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans was confirmed, the nutritionists explained. (fp)

Also read:
Lithium: trace element prolongs life?
Drinking water is often contaminated with germs
American drinking water contaminated with chrome

Picture: Paul Golla /

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Video: Bipolar Disorder - When we use Lithium


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