An urge to jump affirms the urge to live: an empirical examination of the high place phenomenon

J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):1114-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.10.035. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


Background: The experience of a sudden urge to jump when in a high place has been speculated to be associated with suicidal ideation; however, scant data has informed this speculation. We termed this experience the high place phenomenon (HPP) and proposed that it stems from a misinterpreted safety signal (i.e., survival instinct). The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of the HPP, to provide evidence that the phenomenon is not exclusive to suicide ideators, and to explore the role of anxiety sensitivity in the phenomenon.

Methods: 431 undergraduate college students completed online measures of lifetime frequency of experiencing the HPP, suicidal ideation, anxiety sensitivity, depressive symptoms, and history of mood episodes.

Results: The HPP was commonly reported in the general population, even among participants with no history of suicidal ideation. There was a significant correlation between anxiety sensitivity and the HPP, and this relationship was moderated by level of current suicidal ideation. Particularly, the relationship between anxiety sensitivity and the HPP was potentiated among participants with low levels of suicidal ideation.

Limitations: The cross-sectional design of the study limits the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn.

Conclusions: The HPP is commonly experienced among suicide ideators and non-ideators alike. Thus, individuals who report experiencing the phenomenon are not necessarily suicidal; rather, the experience of HPP may reflect their sensitivity to internal cues and actually affirm their will to live.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Altitude
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Students / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Young Adult