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

an investigator with the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, led a similar study that reported a correlation between high altitudes and higher suicide rates.

His work -- published in the American Journal of Psychiatry -- also crunched 20 years' worth of data provided by the CDC. That effort revealed that nine states in the so-called "Intermountain West" region of the country (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Oregon) all ranked among the top 10 states in the nation in terms of suicide rates.

Noting that these states have some of the highest altitudes in the country, Renshaw's analysis concluded that high altitude seems to be an independent risk factor for suicide, particularly among people already prone to depression and mood disorders.

"So my take on this new study is that it's wonderful that independently of each other we got to the same point," Renshaw said. "Because within the suicidology world, we are always concerned that we are missing something, or that this isn't relevant. But here, this group is probably even more methodologically sophisticated than we are, so the fact that we did much the same thing and they have replicated our finding is a very good thing."

"I'm also not surprised that they found that suicide rates differ from the overall mortality experience in high altitude places," he added. "Because many people do seem to adapt quite well to living in a higher altitude, and there's something about committing suicide that's clearly very different from mortality risk."

"But for those people with pre-disposing factors to suicide, like depression and emotional distress, there really appears to be something quite pernicious about living at a higher altitude," he concluded. "And this confirming finding puts us all in a better position to further explore the subject and get a better understanding of what's going on."

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