High altitude may be a factor in suicide rates


Is suicide partly influenced by altitude? The issue has been debated for many years. According to Brent Kious, a psychiatrist at the University of Utah, “If someone is already moderately depressed, altitude can make a difference and have an impact.” A conclusion challenged by other researchers.

Some states in the western United States have a particularly high suicide rate. This is particularly the case of Utah, which is located in the Rocky Mountain region, often given the unflattering nickname if “suicide belt”.

Colorado in particular is also affected by the phenomenon.

This is the thesis expounded by psychiatrist and neurobiologist Perry Renshaw. He argues in particular that the lack of oxygen could reduce the effect of anti-depressants, cause hypoxia (oxygen deficiency in the tissues) and hinder the production of serotonin that contributes to the regulation of emotions.

Perry Renshaw and the researchers who assisted him in his study found that the suicide rate was half as low in areas where altitude did not exceed 600 meters, compared to those where the altitude is between 1,200 and 1,500 meters.

“If you are not already depressed, it will not be a big problem – (…) but if someone is already moderately depressed, it can make a difference and have an impact on the risk of suicide”, corroborates Brent Kious, a psychiatrist at the University of Utah, who also studied the subject.

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“We found many other factors that compete with altitude: if it plays a role, it is minor,” tempered Ben Honigman professor of emergency medicine.

Shakes Gilles

Editor of The Talking Democrat. He enjoys bike riding, kayaking and playing soccer. On a slow weekend, you'll find him with a book by the lake.