High Risk

Researchers have observed a “whoppingly strong” correlation between suicide rates and elevation. US counties above 4,000 feet have twice the suicide rate as those at 2,000 feet. The highest rates occur above 9,000 feet.

A lack of oxygen can cause hypoxia, which disrupts serotonin production and can affect the efficacy of medications for depression and anxiety. Supplemental oxygen, alongside other interventions, can help, some University of Utah researchers believe.

But skeptics say the hypothesis oversimplifies complex social and biological facets of suicide. They note that the high-altitude “suicide belt” runs through rural areas with easy gun access, social isolation and poverty.

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