Why Living In Higher Altitudes Raises Depression, Suicide Risks

How often have you dreamed of living high up in the mountains where clouds seem to hover above the head? Living in high mountain regions with idyllic surroundings and calm nature seem like a dream come true but in reality, it is not so much good for the health. Researchers have discovered that living in high altitudes may increase the risk of depression and suicidal tendency. In a case study, scientists have found that people living in higher altitudes have four times higher chance to commit suicide. The reason is attributed to low atmospheric pressure in such regions.

Factors responsible for the change in mental state

The oxygen levels get depleted as we go to higher altitudes. The low levels of oxygen in the body create a condition called hypobaric hypoxia. Usually, the chemical serotonin is responsible for feelings related to happiness. Low blood oxygen levels will alter the levels of serotonin in the body. The change in the levels of feel-good chemical results in behavioral changes and mood swings of individuals. When the serotonin metabolism is altered, there will be a significant change in the bioenergetics of the brain. The pathways for depression and suicidal tendency are found to be the same as both are related to serotonin.


Suicide and depression can be caused by complex conditions and various socioenvironmental factors. The depression disorder starts after few weeks of feeling gloomy with sad thoughts and low self-esteem. Depressed people can be diagnosed with symptoms of low mood, low energy levels, and being alienated from others. Individuals who are lonely have higher chances of thinking about suicide or committing suicide.  Around the world, at least 16% of people experience this state of mental health in their lifetime. The depression disorder changes from individual to individual and also from region to region.

The role of serotonin in the body

The overall reasons for death for people living in high altitudes are less compared to general population living in the cities. They majorly suffer from suicide tendencies rather than alcoholic problems or substance abuse. The neurotransmitter serotonin is very crucial in maintaining the sanity of a person. Serotonin regulates the mood of a person, social behavior, sleep, memory, and appetite along with digestion process. The hypobaric hypoxia caused by living in high altitudes impairs the enzyme responsible for the production of serotonin. Normal antidepressants are not adequate to treat the depression in people living in higher mountain regions.

If you are wondering if this condition in those individuals living in higher altitudes is treatable, the answer is yes. The depression and suicide tendency can be treated by giving supplemental 5-hydroxytryptophan which is a precursor for serotonin production. It induces the serotonin to be synthesized and increases the bioenergetics of the brain. It is found the increase in creatine levels helps the brain to gain high energy. The neurons of brain rely greatly on creatine for energy production. The feel-good symptoms increase in the individuals and let them live without depression or gloomy thoughts.

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