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Rising humidity could be linked to increase in suicides, report finds | Global development

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More frequent spells of intense humidity caused by the climate crisis are more likely than heatwaves to be linked to increased rates of suicide, according to new research.

The study found that women and young people were particularly affected by levels of humidity, the intensity and frequency of which are increasing because of global heating.

Based on data from 60 countries between 1979 and 2016, the study, by researchers at the universities of the UN, Sussex and Geneva, as well as University College London, found that periods of intense humidity were more strongly linked to suicide than high temperatures.

Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, who co-authored the research, said humidity interfered with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature and that this increased discomfort could exacerbate conditions for people already struggling with mental illnesses.

“If you talk about mental health there are quite a lot of links – there’s anxiety, it’s hard to sleep, it becomes unbearable,” she said. “Sleep deprivation is a massive thing … It’s difficult to sleep when it’s hot and even more when it’s humid.”

Those already struggling with their mental health could be more affected by increased humidity than other people because antidepressants can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, she added.

According to the study, 40 countries had a particularly strong link between suicide and humidity. The list included hot countries such as Thailand and Guyana, but also European countries that were less used to higher heat and humidity, including Sweden, Belgium and Luxemburg.

“It’s the shock of going from colder temperatures to extreme temperatures that is dangerous to mental health,” said Ayeb-Karlsson.

Ayeb-Karlsson said this was the first time such a study had been carried out on a global scale rather than on a country basis. She said it showed the impact that the climate crisis had on mental health and the threat posed to the World Health Organization’s aim to reduce suicide rates by a third by 2030. There are currently more than 700,000 suicides every year.

“The study found interesting trends related to the increased suicide rates among, particularly, women and youth in relation to humidity. Women and children are known to be suffering disproportionately from the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events due to social structures and power relations. We need to look further into these relations and the contextual reasons behind this in diverse geographical areas and social groups,” she said.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. The charity Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 and ChildLine on 0800 1111. In the US, Mental Health America is available on 800-273-8255. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 or chat for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

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Italy welcoming back EU tourists from February

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Italy will remove all Covid-linked restrictions on international visitors from the EU from 1 February, except the requirement to carry a “Green Pass” – a certificate of vaccination, negative test result, or immunity through having had the virus. Roberto Speranza, the health minister, also gave Italians the go-ahead to travel once again to Cuba, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand (the island of Phuket), Oman, and French Polynesia, Reuters reports.

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Polish state has ‘blood on its hands’ after death of woman refused an abortion | Abortion

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The family of a Polish woman who died on Tuesday after doctors refused to perform an abortion when the foetus’s heart stopped beating have accused the government of having “blood on their hands”.

The woman, identified only as Agnieszka T, was said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she was admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa on 21 December. Her death comes a year after Poland introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

According to a statement released by relatives, the 37-year-old was experiencing pain when she arrived at the hospital but was “fully conscious and in good physical shape”.

The first foetus died in the womb on 23 December, but doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation, and Agnieszka’s family claim “her state quickly deteriorated”. The hospital waited until the heartbeat of the second twin also stopped a week later, and then waited a further two days before terminating the pregnancy on 31 December.

Agnieszka died on 25 January after weeks of deteriorating health. Her family suspect that she died as a result of septic shock, but the hospital did not identify the cause of her death in statement issued on Wednesday.

“This is proof of the fact that the current government has blood on their hands,” the woman’s family said in a statement on Facebook. The family also uploaded distressing footage of Agnieszka in poor health shortly before she died.

After the termination of the pregnancy a priest was summoned by the hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, Agnieszka’s family said.

Her death follows that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was denied an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined.

Agnieszka’s family claim that contact with the hospital was very poor and that the hospital refused to share the results of Agnieszka’s medical tests citing confidentiality guidelines. They say the doctors “insinuated” that Agnieszka’s rapidly deteriorating state could be caused by BSE, commonly known as “mad cow disease”, or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) and suggested she ate raw meat. The hospital did not reference this claim in their statement.

According to the statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. It is not clear whether an autopsy has been ordered.

Agnieszka is survived by her husband and three children.

The Guardian has contacted the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital for comment.

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Biden threatens US blacklisting of Putin

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US president Joe Biden said Tuesday “Yes, I would see that” when asked by reporters if the US would blacklist Russian president Valdimir Putin if he invaded Ukraine. It would be the “largest invasion since World War Two” and would “change the world”, Biden said. The UK and US were also “in discussions” on disconnecting Russia from the Swift international payments system, British prime minister Boris Johnson also said Tuesday.

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