nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Research That We Can Forego

A new study correlates living in a high altitude county with increased suicide risk.

There are much better things to study than this.  You can see the whole article in the Journal of High Altidue Medicine and Biology (Winter 2010)  here.  I've never seen this journal before; it must be a special interest there might be a journal called Skateboarding Economics or Skiing Sociology.

The jist of this research is to find the 50 counties in the US with the highest suicide rates, and the 50 with the lowest rates.  This is available online.  Then you find the average altitude of these counties.  This is also available from the Geological Survey (nice research; no need to gather data or do an experiment).  Take the average altitudes and suicide rates and compare them.

Voila.  The average altitude is higher in the 50 high-suicide counties.  And they have p-values to prove it.

But what does it show?  Altitude in a county can vary from sea level to 15000 feet.  I once lived in a county where half the surface area was at sea level and the other half was at 9000 feet.  What can you make of that?  Yeah the average altitude will be 4500 feet.  I lived at sea level, not at altitude.  And?

Also, maybe all the suicides occurred in those people who lived at the lowest altitude in the county.  Just because I live in a high altitude county doesn't mean I'm actually living at altitude.

Plus, the authors found the reverse in "all-cause" mortality:  the death rate from all causes is actually lower in high alittude counties.

Let's assume there actually is a risk of suicide.  What are we going to do about it?  Restrict people from living above a certain altitude?  Lower the earth down to a level where suicides are less common?  Treat all high altitude residents with an anti-depressant?

I got it.  If you want to live longer, move to high ground:  you won't have to worry about depressed neighbors, they'll all kill themselves.

Much sarcasm on my part, but it's hard to see where this research could take us.

Doc D

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