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High Altitude Linked to Higher Suicide Risk -- Again
Date:1/19/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Across the United States, suicide risk appears to be significantly higher among people who live in higher altitudes, new research suggests.

The latest observation seems to confirm the findings of previous research that unearthed a complex and as-yet not fully explained relationship between higher than average suicide rates and residency in higher elevations.

"Once you get to somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, you start seeing the suicide rates increase," explained study author Dr. Barry E. Brenner, a professor of emergency medicine and internal medicine, as well as program director, in the department of emergency medicine at University Hospital Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "The correlation is very, very, very high, and it happens in every single region of the U.S."

"And yet as you go up in altitude the overall death rate, or all-cause mortality, actually decreases," Brenner noted. "So, the fact that suicide rates are increasing at the same time is a really significant and really striking finding."

Brenner and his colleagues discuss their results in the Jan. 18 online issue of High Altitude Medicine & Biology.

The authors noted that data collected earlier this decade indicates that, globally, suicide is the 14th most common cause of death, amounting to 1.5 million fatalities every year.

Brenner's new evidence of a linkage between suicides and high altitudes stem from an analysis of two decades worth of mortality data (1979-1998) obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC figures covered deaths that occurred in all 2,584 counties across the United States in that timeframe. At the same time, the authors obtained countywide elevation statistics from the U.S. Geologic Survey.

The research team determined that over the course of the 20-year period, suicides accounte
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