Suicide and Altitude

BLOG FOR MENTAL HEALTH 2014

I came across this article about neuroscientist Perry Renshaw’s research into what he calls the “Utah Paradox.”

Neuroscientist Perry Renshaw

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.

I was intrigued, since I’ve known for years that a higher, drier clime has the power to make me feel remarkably happier, when I arrive from the sea level humidity where I live.

So I was intrigued, then argumentative, then baffled, then amazed as Brain Mic editor Theresa Fisher dove into the neuro-chemistry and the geo-demography (two of my favorite subjects!!) to identify the experience that I have: I lifelong depressive who feels uplift and well being from altitude.

The working theory is that high altitude hypoxia reduces seratonin but stimulates dopamine. Since I know from a major medication adjustment about 5 years ago that SSRIs alone don’t manage my depression, that helps explain my joy at altitude. Of course more sunlight and spectacular vistas certainly don’t hurt!

Where we live has so much to do with who we are, and how we feel. If you have climate or geography related experiences with your mental health, please tell us about them.

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