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Hüfner, Katharina, Fabio Caramazza, Evelyn R. Pircher Nöckler, Agnieszka E. Stawinoga, Paolo Fusar-Poli, Sanjeeb S. Bhandari, Buddha Basnyat, Monika Brodmann Maeder, Giacomo Strapazzon, Iztok Tomazin, Ken Zafren, Hermann Brugger, and Barbara Sperner-Unterweger. Association of pre-existing mental health conditions with acute mountain sickness at Everest Base Camp. High Alt Med Biol. xx:xxx-xxx, 2022. Background: Mental health disorders are common, but limited data are available regarding the number of people with a past medical history of psychiatric diagnoses going to high altitude (HA). It is also unknown whether mental health conditions are associated with an increased risk of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Methods: We analyzed data from a previous study at Everest Base Camp. Participants self-reported their past medical history and history of substance use and had a brief history taken by a physician. AMS was assessed using the self-reported 2018 Lake Louise AMS Score. Results: Eighty-five participants (66 men and 19 women, age 38 ± 9 years) were included. When questioned by a physician, 28 participants reported prior diagnoses or symptoms compatible with depression (23%), anxiety disorder (6%), post-traumatic stress disorder (1%), and psychosis/psychotic experiences (9%). The prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses in the past medical history was much lower in the self-reported data (2/85) compared to data obtained via physician assessment (28/85). Increased risks of AMS were associated with a past medical history of anxiety disorder (odds ratio [OR] 22.7; confidence interval [95% CI] 2.3-220.6; p p = 0.022), and recreational drug use ever (OR 7.3; 95% CI 1.5-35.5; p = 0.006). Conclusions: Many people who travel to HA have a past medical history of mental health conditions. These individuals have an increased risk of scoring positive for AMS on the Lake Louise Score compared with people without a history of mental health conditions.

Original publication





High altitude medicine & biology

Publication Date



Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Medical Psychology, University Hospital of Psychiatry II, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.