Living at a high altitude may make people 30% more likely to commit suicide


Hrm. I’m no neuroscientist, but speaking about the state I know best, Alaska, there doesn’t seem to be a connection. Alaska has one of the highest (if not the highest) suicide rates in the country, yet almost all of Alaska’s population lives at sea level - most of the towns are on the coast, and even Fairbanks, Alaska’s largest inland city, sits just 500 feet above sea level. There are lots of factors affecting suicide rates, and with this doctor looking at “data on altitude, suicide and mental illness” I’m not convinced that he took everything in to account.

Then again, people in large coastal cities with populations above 5 million (where I currently live) often suffer from higher rates of skepticism and cynicism, so maybe that’s why I’m not inclined to trust the research.


I see a class-action suit against the Rockies.


Counterpoint: higher rates of suicide are associated with having to travel too far to get McDonald’s.

There’s even that blip for West Virginia and everything!


Hmm… I’d say it’s just as likely that wearing magic underwear could have a seriously depressing influence, as well.


This is the place. The place to be really sad.


Thank goodness I live in one of the bright spots! Thank you Ronald McDonald!

You jest somewhat, but my father-in-law, a Mormon who lives in Utah, thinks that it actually is related. Since observant Mormons don’t “self-medicate” (his words) with alcohol, they go for the loophole in their rules which is antidepressants - or other prescription drugs. I believe Utah also has a painkiller problem.

My mother-in-law, who has left the church, thinks it’s also related to the religion. They’re taught that if you’re following the precepts you will have a blessed and happy life. So if you’re unhappy, you must be doing something wrong. And you’ll be determined to show a happy face to the world. Utah has the biggest societal pressure to conform to the religion as well; if you’re LDS in Southern California, everyone you know is probably something else and isn’t going to enforce it.


When it comes to Utah, are we sure the answer to the increased suicide question isn’t “Mormonism”? Because I can see how that would impact the suicide rate for various demographics. Everyone I know who grew up Mormon has stories about family members with severe mental health issues that they attribute to the repressive nature of the religion. Non-Mormons I know who grew up in Utah talk about how their (lack of) religion made them social outcasts, which made teenage years especially difficult. Gay Mormons have a higher suicide rate, as do, I suspect, other people who don’t “fit in” and as a result are ostracised by their community. Similar issues would also exist in non-Mormon areas where you have fairly rural areas with cultural homogeneity and a lack of support networks for people who don’t fit in.

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Just sayin.

(updated to 2004 electoral map)

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Altitude (which is to say, its effect on our brain chemistry) might be one of many factors, I suppose. Depression and suicidal behavior are complex phenomenon.

My day job involves suicide prevention for one of the most at-risk populations in Canada, people who also happen to live in some of the lowest inhabited altitudes in the country. The risk factors are pretty well understood in this context. Some of them are unique others can be found everywhere else in the world.

IMHO, where we go astray is to assume that there’s a magic bullet explanation for suicidal behavior.


Where we go astray is by casting aspersions on research for not doing what it didn’t do.

I don’t see, at all, where anyone suggested a magic bullet or simple explanation, so I don’t understand why you say anyone (other than you) went astray just there.

your tendency to jump to conclusions is not our tendency to do so.

This research looks at an aspect of a thing. Be disappointed because it’s not comprehensive?? If you must.

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The researcher in the article objects to your point, saying that suicide rates are also high in Las Vegas, which does not have a significant Mormon population. That said, doesn’t the materialist/hedonist philosophy of Las Vegas ‘preach’ the same kind of message? That if you’re ‘doing it right’ you should be happy?

With the exceptions of West Virginia and Oklahoma this map almost matches with the Mormon population map here:

Quite the contrary, I’m happy the research is being done. I was responding in my last sentence to a more general tendency in the news articles I read that tend to simplify the causes of suicidal behavior. I apologize if my vagueness ticked you off.

It seems quite clear that if you are higher up there are going to be more things to jump off - a simple case of opportunity.


I haven’t read the article, but the first thing that jumped out at me was…

Maybe lonely people are more likely to commit suicide :frowning:


Sorry, but this doesn’t qualify as anything more than random speculation. Looking at the map, there are more low altitude areas with high suicide rates. Total BS.

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Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with average population density, now could it? Or the Mormon theory works, too.

Well god forbid you should read the article… or the actual study.