To climb a mountain, look into your genes

12 Nov, 2007, 0626 hrs IST, IANS

KATHMANDU: Can you conquer Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world? It depends on your genes and your personality, says a psychiatrist who studied mountaineers over four years to assess their per sonalities.

Erik Monasterio, a senior lecturer of forensic psychiatry from New Zealand, says people who choose to take up high-risk sports like mountaineering have personalities different from the average persons’. Monasterio says climbers generally enjoy “exploring unfamiliar places and situations”. They are also “easily bored, try to avoid monotony and so tend to be quick-tempered, excitable and impulsive”.

Climbers also have good self-esteem and self-reliance and tend to be high-achievers. The study says they score high in the areas of novelty-seeking and self-directedness, but are low on harm-avoidance. The researcher says that average people who experience or witness the level of trauma he came across in his studies are likely to get mental disorders — like post-traumatic stress disorder and other mood or anxiety problems.

Monasterio says that researchers in Switzerland who studied a large number of mountain guides found that though they had experienced trauma similar to that faced by fire-fighters, only 3% of the guides developed post-traumatic stress disorder whereas the incidence was as high as 20% among the fire-fighters.

“An interesting possibility is that risk-taking sports people may be protected from the psychological complications that generally accompany serious trauma,” the study says. “This could explain why accidents do not put them off adventure sports.” Biology and genetics play ‘at least a moderate role’ in determining who takes up adventure sports, according to the study.

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