I'd like to explore the connection between altitude and suicide rates discussed in the 2011 paper, Positive Association between Altitude and Suicide in 2584 U.S. Counties.

I can get some data for the suicide rates from the CDC WISQARS site, though unfortunately they don't report raw data for small population counties.

I'm still looking for a data set providing elevation data for counties, such as the elevation of the county seats or a mean elevation for the whole county.

  • The USGS has NED, the National Elevation Dataset, but the granularity is much higher than county. (and I'm not sure what you'd have to do to get county info back out of it)
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 22:26

6 Answers 6


Have you tried the Area Health Resource File (AHRF)? It has elevation data and then some for this type of analysis.

  • Hadn't seen it. Wish it weren't 100MB of text to parse! But it looks workable though it's missing elevation for HI and AK and parts of VA.
    – xan
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 22:33

You'll have to mash things a little but this is available for free and should be fairly easy to setup:

Download the 2014 National Gazetteer, County Dataset, a tab delimited text file with 3200+ US counties, by state, ANSI code with Lat and Long.

Then, bang away at the USGS National Elevation Dataset Query Service for the elevation of a given lat/long.

The Query Service page has code for both HTTP Get and HTTP Post.


Here's some MISC resources to add to Kotebiya answer. Below is the USGS quick facts on elevations in the US. It has a list of the high/lowest for the largest 50 cities. Some other tables as well.


Maryland's GIS site has a list of high/low per county:


This is a hiking site that also contains a lot of elevation data:



census has longitude and latitude here by county: https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/centersofpop.html

elevation data is also here: http://nationalmap.gov/elevation.html

I was thinking you might be able to link the two together.

  • Have you found a more accessible elevation data set that this 4GB disk request at usgs.gov/faq/categories/9865/5171?
    – xan
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 3:04
  • You can try copying and pasting the long and lat here: gpsvisualizer.com/geocoder/elevation.html The data is from Google which differs from NED though. That should allow you to cross reference long/lat with elevation.
    – Sun
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 17:49


It's not free but for $39.95(USD) it might cover what you need.

  • If you're going to suggest sources that don't fall under 'open data' ... could you at least confirm if they meet the need?
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 22:19
  • Joe, you're right. I lost track of the point of the forum. For the entire US: primary county, county code (FIPS and ANSI), county's average elevation, and about 25 other fields.
    – pndfam05
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 2:42

I went to this website (USGS board on geographic names), downloaded each state's information and then filtered the rows with "county" in the place name. Each state's URL can be programatically manipulated easily.

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