Growing Evidence Links Utah Suicides to Altitude

Provo Temple nightI just read this very interesting article about the “Utah Paradox” which is that we are both the happiest state and also the one with the highest use of antidepressants. On top of that, we’ve long had a high suicide rate that many church critics have attempted to link to Mormonism. It’s also been known for a long time that Utah is part of the “suicide belt” — a group of states that all have a high suicide rate (with Utah often being the best of that belt. Since both Provo and Las Vegas are both in the belt, and have little in common culturally, the suspicion that altitude’s effects on the brain is a leading cause of suicides has floated around for decades.

Now there is growing evidence that this might just be the right hypothesis.

Unfortunately this might also mean that Mormonism might not get to take full credit for being the happiest state either. Read the article to find out why.

This is a good little fact to know, however, to deflect church critics with when they try to link all manner of church beliefs to suicide.

10 thoughts on “Growing Evidence Links Utah Suicides to Altitude

  1. Interesting theory. There are many large cities that are at much higher altitudes than Salt Lake and Provo. Mexico City (one of the largest cities in the world) is at 7,300 feet, Bogota, Colombia is at 8,000 feet. Quito, Ecuador is at 9,000 feet, and La Paz, Bolivia is at 13,000 feet. I could not find any studies indicating that suicide risks are higher in these cities. However, there are several articles discussing altitude and suicide in the U.S. Here is one of them:

  2. How about comparing Utah with Colorado or some other state with high elevations? Right now, I gotta say I am not convinced. There must be some other factors at play.

  3. Aw, what a disappoint! You mean there might be legitimate alternatives to just assuming that Mormonism is a psychological abuse-crime perpetuated against its adherents in Utah?

  4. Aaron, read the article. It does compare it to other high altitude states. In fact the Rocky Mountain states are known as “The Suicide Belt.” That’s been known for decades.

    Teasing stuff like this out is difficult, to be sure. There are know certainties.

  5. Having had the experience of trying to work at high altitude (13,000′) without adequate acclimatization), I know how low oxygen tension can play with the mind.

    That there might be chronic effects at lower altitude is at least an interesting hypothesis.

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