Dr. Perry Renshaw, of the University of Utah neuroscience program, led a one-hour discussion on the effects of the altitude in Utah on suicide rates, drug use and mood disorders at Weber State University on March 23.

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(Wikimedia)

Utah is ranked one of the highest states in the nation for depression and antidepressant usage. Renshaw believes that one of the factors contributing to the rate being so high is the altitude.

Although Utah may be ranked higher for depression, it was also rated one of the happiest states. Renshaw mentioned it could have a lot to do with when an individual goes into the mountains, serotonin goes down, but dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, goes up.

Utah also has a low rate of ADHD because of high dopamine.

“We only have half the hyperactivity of any other state in the nation,” Renshaw said.

Jonathan Hale, a Weber State student, was on his way to another class when he heard about the discussion and was interested in learning more about how altitude can affect your mood.

“I never put two and two together, but it sounds about right,” Hale said. “You go downwards in elevation; you can become a totally different person. You can see it if you are looking for it.”

Renshaw also discussed his idea on how creatine can help to make antidepressants work better.

The theory was first done with rats. Researchers gave creatine to both male and female rats, and then their performance was evaluated with a swim test.

The male rats didn’t seem impressed with creatine, but the female rats seemed to benefit from it and increased their swimming habits. Researchers further tested with females and gave them Lexapro with creatine. Within two weeks, the females showed a difference.

“I knew that Utah was ranked high in suicide rate, but I had no idea that it could be related to living at a higher altitude,” student Jake Kruitbosch said. “I wish that I had known about this discussion because it would have been fascinating to see the research that has gone into determining the effects altitude has on your mood and suicide rate.”

WSU Counseling and Psychological Services Center has trained professionals that can help individuals who have suicidal thoughts or behaviors. For more information on what services they provide, go to the Counseling and Psychological Services Center page on WSU’s website.

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