Leo Sher, M.D.
A research report, “Effect of altitude on veteran suicide rates” has been published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology online ahead of print (1). Researchers from Salt Lake City, Utah, examined the relationship between veteran state-level suicide rates and altitude, including firearm-related and nonfirearm-related suicides. The authors extracted data related to state veteran suicide rates from U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs State Data Sheets. The mean altitude for each state was calculated using Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data, developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
The mean state altitude was 1717.2 ± 1853.5 ft, with the lowest mean altitude being 58.8 ft (Delaware) and the highest being 7192.2 ft (Colorado). The mean suicide rate among veterans in all age groups was 41.5 ± 10.7 suicides per 100,000 per year; the highest state suicide rate was 68.6 (Montana), whereas the lowest was 21.6 (Massachusetts).
The authors found that state mean altitude was significantly positively correlated with total veteran suicide rate, veteran firearm-related suicide rate, and veteran nonfirearm suicide rate. In mixed models, altitude was also significantly positively correlated with total veteran suicide rate, veteran firearm suicides, and veteran nonfirearm suicides. The authors also observed that the association between suicide rate and altitude is stronger in veterans than in nonveterans. This research report suggests that residence at higher altitudes may enhance risk of suicide among military veterans.
- Sabic H, Kious B, Boxer D, Fitzgerald C, Riley C, Scholl L, McGlade E, Yurgelun-Todd D, Renshaw PF, Kondo DG. Effect of altitude on veteran suicide rates. High Alt Med Biol. 2019 May 2. doi: 10.1089/ham.2018.0130. [Epub ahead of print]