According to the article There's a Suicide Epidemic in Utah — And One Neuroscientist Thinks He Knows Why:
... 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. In fact, it's the No. 1 state for antidepressant use. These polarized feelings of despondency and delight underlie a confusing phenomenon that Perry Renshaw, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah investigating the strange juxtaposition, calls the "Utah paradox."
Utah residents and experts are aware of the paradox, often attributing gun use, low population density and the area's heavy Mormon influence as potential factors. But Renshaw thinks he's identified a more likely cause for the Utah blues: altitude.
Renshaw believes that altitude has an impact on our 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. America's favorite antidepressants (and party drugs) work by controlling the level of these chemicals in the brain. The air in Utah, one could say, works just like this.
The article cites:
In a 2011 study1 published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a group of researchers, including Renshaw, 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 — even the group of states with the least available psychiatric care had fewer suicides than the highest-altitude states, where psychiatric care was easier to find.
The article and study detail the methodology and underlying theory, but I am interested here in knowing whether the statistics correlating altitude with suicide are corroborated in places outside the USA (where deviations are not explained by other factors).
Do we see similarly relatively higher suicide rates in the mountains of Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America?
- Altitude, Gun Ownership, Rural Areas, and Suicide, The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 168 Issue 1, January 2011, Namkug Kim, et al.