Economic factors mediate the impact of drought on farmer suicides in India

Yoav Rothler, David Blakeslee, Deepak Malghan, Ram Fishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The occurrence of farmer suicides has come to symbolize what is likely widespread and deep, but often hidden, agrarian distress. While this tragic phenomena has attracted tremendous attention in public discourse, its primary drivers remain poorly understood. In particular, climatic stress is often considered to be one such driver, but the mechanisms through which it triggers suicide remain disputed. Here, we provide evidence that factors related to agricultural income mediate the impact of climatic variability on farmer suicides in India. An analysis of temporal variation in suicide occurrence reveals that droughts, which impact farmers’ incomes, increase male farmer suicides by 19%, but have much smaller and insignificant impacts on other occupational or demographic groups. Moreover, whereas suicides by non-farmers are evenly distributed throughout the year, farmer suicides are concentrated during the agricultural season. These results help shed light on the mechanisms driving some of the most extreme and drastic social impacts of climatic variability and change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102844
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • Smallholder farmers
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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