The study looked at the lithium levels in drinking water in Oita. The city have a population of more than one million people. In areas where the lithium was highest there was a positive marked difference in suicide deaths. High doses of lithium is used in the treatment of mood disorders.
The team of researchers from universities in Oita and Hiroshima found that even low levels of water with lithium had lower rates of suicide.
Researchers believe that the lower rates may have a cumulative protective effect on the brain after drinking the water for years.
There have been past research on the same subject in the 1980’s. Those results showed the same lower levels of suicide.
Researchers in Japan have asked other countries to research the issue. They have stopped short of suggesting that lithium be added to drinking water elsewhere.
BBC quotes Professor Allan Young of Vancouver’s Institute for Mental Health:
“Large-scale trials involving the addition of lithium to drinking water supplies may then be feasible, although this would undoubtedly be subject to considerable debate. Following up on these findings will not be straightforward or inexpensive, but the eventual benefits for community mental health may be considerable.”
Sophie Corlett, external relations director at mental health charity Mind, agrees that the study deserves more investigation but cautions that adding even trace amounts of the drug needs to be researched throughly because of side effects.