Higher altitudes, higher suicide risk link

Jan. 15, 2011 at 8:33 PM

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Researchers have linked higher U.S. suicide rates to living at higher elevations.

Drs. Barry Brenner and David Cheng of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Sunday Clark of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Dr. Carlos Camargo Jr. of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston find the data indicate those living at higher elevations -- as a group -- have a statistically significant higher rate of suicide.

The study published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology concludes that despite a negative correlation between elevation and all cause mortality -- people at higher elevations may live longer as a group -- there was a positive correlation between elevation and suicide risk -- people at higher elevations have higher rates of suicide.

"The higher altitude counties had significant higher suicide rather than the lower altitude counties," the study authors say in a statement. "We conclude that altitude may be a novel risk factor for suicide in the contiguous United States."

The researchers examined 20 years -- 1979 to 1998 -- of cause-of-death data from all 2,584 U.S. counties. They checked altitude by counties because of greater variability intrastate, and controlled for known suicide risk factors such as older age, male gender, white race and low income.

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