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Inter-annual rainfall variations and suicide in New South Wales, Australia, 1964–2001

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The suicide rate in New South Wales is shown to be related to annual precipitation, supporting a widespread and long-held assumption that drought in Australia increases the likelihood of suicide. The relationship, although statistically significant, is not especially strong and is confounded by strong, long-term variations in the suicide rate not related to precipitation variations. A decrease in precipitation of about 300 mm would lead to an increase in the suicide rate of approximately 8% of the long-term mean suicide rate.

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The rainfall data used were a gridded data set produced by the National Climate Centre of the Bureau of Meteorology. A software package, DIAGNOSE, developed by Peter Powers of the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, was used to produce the time-series of areal-averaged rainfall. We would also like to thank Melissa Goodwin at NCEPH for advice concerning data management, Associate Professor Pierre Horwitz of Edith Cowan University, and Professor A.J. McMichael and Dr. Keith Dear at NCEPH for their useful comments.

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Correspondence to Neville Nicholls.

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Nicholls, N., Butler, C.D. & Hanigan, I. Inter-annual rainfall variations and suicide in New South Wales, Australia, 1964–2001. Int J Biometeorol 50, 139–143 (2006).

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