Suicide Epidemic in Utah —Neuroscientist blames altitude

Altitude linked to suicide?
Despite ranking as America’s happiest state, Utah has disproportionately high rates of suicide and associated mood disorders compared to the rest of the country. One scientist believes that altitude has an impact on brain chemistry, specifically that it changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two key chemicals in the brain that help regulate our feelings of happiness.

Article in brief:

In a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a group of researchers,analyzed state suicide rates with respect to gun ownership, population density, poverty, health insurance quality and availability of psychiatric care. Of all the factors, altitude had the strongest link to suicide.

All states in the suicide belt are western states with mountainous regions or high altitudes. The condition is known as hypobaric hypoxia.

Suicides start increasing between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in all U.S. regions. The U.S. isn’t a special case — analysis of suicide rates in other countries, including South Korea and Austria, bore similar results.