Study: The Higher the Floor You Live On, the Lower Your Chance of Surviving a Heart Attack

If you’re living in a high-rise condo in double digits, a fear of heights isn’t the only thing you should worry about.

Because it turns out the higher the floor you live on the lower your chance of survival in the event of a heart attack.

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined five years of health data from the City of Toronto and Peel Regions to see what part, if any, “vertical delay” had on life and death situations when 911 was called.

And the results are pretty startling. The study sought to uncover if floor level could determine a person’s chance of survival when someone called emergency services to report a cardiac arrest.

The conclusion? Hell yes.

Researchers chose to take data from the City of Toronto and Peel Regions because of their high population densities, examining nearly 8,000 cases between 2007 and 2012.

Those on the first or second floor had a 4.2 per cent chance of surviving and between the third and fifteenth floor that lowers further to 2.6. On floor 16 or above, the chance of survival was a “negligible” less than one per cent.

But the worst figure of all related to the 30 residents who went into cardiac arrest on the 25th floor or above. “They all died,” said Dr. Laurie Morrison, one of the study’s author’s and a scientist at St Michael’s Hospital.

And before you say that it would never happen to you, in your lovely modern condo where the concierge staff are always so attentive, think again. The study could find no links and drew no conclusions between geographical and socioeconomic factors. There were no “toxic neighbourhoods” where people were more likely to die than others.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re poor, middle class or high class, it’s just the vertical that makes a difference,” said Morrison.

The study attributed much of this to access issues. Many buildings are inaccessible from outside or do not have an elevator available at the time of the emergency.

So what can we do to help ourselves? Well, we ourselves may not be able to do much, but the study points towards buildings and landlords taking a stronger position to avoid such incidents in the future.

Purchasing a defibrillation device and training staff to use it may help them to to restart residents’ hearts before first responders arrive. It also suggests that a universal access key for elevators be given to not just fire departments, but paramedics as well (who often arrive first on the scene).

So if you’re thinking of moving into a condo or apartment, maybe check out all the facilities first – and not just the gym. Because there’s more to life than a great view of the city.