Major Chinese Survey Links Suicidal Thoughts to Pesticides

There are scores of reasons why a given individual might think about or consider suicide, and many of them are deeply personal. But sometimes, the cause of such thoughts and overwhelming feelings may have a lot to do with the local environment, an issue that mental health professionals, public health workers, and governments are especially concerned about addressing. Recently, an extensive survey was carried out in parts of China that described a strong link between various uses and storage methods of common pesticides and incidences of suicidal thoughts. The survey was conducted following rising concerns over national suicide rates and outcry over the use of organophosphates, pesticides that have been banned in most Western countries but are still employed in many parts of the world.

The survey examined the mental health and suicidal ideas primarily in farmers and their families living in rural areas. With large amounts of the organophosphate pesticides used to grow various crops, those living in such areas are easily able to absorb low dosages through the lungs and skin. Farmers and others who live in rural environments are exposed to the pesticides through the consumption of contaminated crops, and may also receive unhealthy dosages by storing the pesticides in unsafe ways or in excessive amounts. Over time, this exposure may lead to mental health issues, a side effect which has resulted in the discontinuation of organophosphates in the west.

Until the completion of this survey, however, a direct link between chronic exposure to the pesticides and suicidal thoughts had not been established, making the research an important step in the quest to phase out the use of organophosphates worldwide. It is hoped that less harmful pesticides and safer storage methods will be introduced to the Chinese countryside to help lower rates of suicide and improve quality of life.

Reference: (2009, October 22). Pesticides exposure linked to suicidal thoughts. King’s College London. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sammie


    November 1st, 2009 at 2:30 AM

    This idea is too far-fetched… sounds almost impossible that consuming pesticide-infested food will lead to feeling of committing suicide!

  • Carrie


    November 1st, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    There is no telling how much harm these chemicals can do inside of our bodies- I don’t doubt for a minute that they can cause major health issues and really screw around with the natural balances within. I don’t think that this is too far fetched at all. Let’s say that the build up of these chemicals start to cause you major health problems, illness, etc. and there is no known explanation. Over time you will get more and more worn down due to the lack of treatment and then hyou get depressed, and we all know what the correlation is between depression and suicide. So while there may be no easy link, this automatically causes this, it is very easy to see how the two issues could be connected.

  • Paige


    November 1st, 2009 at 7:02 PM

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the findings, Sammie. Kings College London is a highly respected institution and would not put their name to anything that wasn’t above board. Seeing that the research comes from them gives it validity in my mind.

  • Sylvia


    November 1st, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    There’s a very good reason for farming without pesticides right there. The public is always up in arms when something like this comes up. But show them how imperfect organic or pesticide free fruit looks, which is natural, and what happens. They go running back to their perfect pesticide-grown fruit because it looks nicer in the bowl.

  • Harriet


    November 1st, 2009 at 8:50 PM

    I can see how their pesticides could have such an effect. Not every country has the rigorous safety testing procedures we’re blessed with in the West. It wasn’t so long ago that China suffered the scandals about melamine in pet food and giving tainted baby formula to their children. The product’s not designed for inhalation and was already banned.

  • Bryan


    November 2nd, 2009 at 12:50 AM

    Kind of explains the various farmer suicides that have been taking place in south east Asian countries like India, Bangladesh.

  • Jamie


    November 2nd, 2009 at 12:54 AM

    Arent organophosphates used in Vineyards too? I do know that it reduces the level of cholinesterase, an enzyme that controls the nervous system. Do these low levels contribute to incidences of suicide?

  • Eric


    November 2nd, 2009 at 10:01 AM

    I for one am glad that the use of pesticides such as these have fallen out of favor in the West. It does still concern me though that we do live in such a global society and that goods poisoned by these chemicals could still make their way to our supermarkets and could thereby still harm the world consumer.

  • Norah


    November 2nd, 2009 at 10:19 AM

    Such pesticide-infested food might trigger the production of chemicals/hormones that inturn produce depression in the mind of a person, which could lead to suicidal thoughts…thats what is happening according to my understanding.

  • Tony Parker

    Tony Parker

    November 2nd, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    ^^I have to agree with what Norah says… because I have read bout food resulting in production of hormones… that is exactly the reason why certain types of foods are encouraged for a particular kind of diet.

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