A long-term epidemiological study has determined that individuals living at higher altitudes are at increased risk of committing suicide.
Since the study was observational, that is, simply tracking mortality rates from counties across the United States, a cause and effect relationship cannot be established. But the results may lead to more detailed investigation of potential causal links.
Researchers examined cause-of-death data from all 2,584 U.S. counties between 1979 and 1998 and found that, as a group, people living at higher elevations had a statistically significant higher rate of suicide.
The positive correlation between elevation and suicide risk was present even when the authors controlled for known suicide risk factors, such as older age, male sex, white race, and low income.
Interestingly, the authors determined that the increased suicide rates at higher altitudes are not part of a broader association between mortality from all causes and living at higher elevations. In fact, they report a significantly lower overall mortality rate at higher altitudes.
“This article describes a new, unexpected finding of a link between suicide rate and altitude of residence. The cause is obscure as yet,” says John B. West, M.D., Ph.D, a professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The current study is published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Source: Mary Ann Liebert