The Link Between Alcohol and Suicide – Increased Availability Is Associated With Increased Risk of Suicide
A recent study found that there is a strong link between alcohol availability, blood alcohol concentration levels, and suicide.
Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, co-researcher of the study, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto:
“Previous research has usually looked at alcohol pricing or alcohol availability — which is the density of outlets — and overall rates of suicide. [Tthe study]…was able to also dig a little more to indicate whether the people who committed suicide had alcohol in their system. In other words, whether they were BAC positive or the BAC was above the legal limit for driving.”
The NDVRS is a surveillance system designed to gather data on violent deaths. For the study, investigators examined 14 states to analyze information on off-premise and on-premise alcohol use – that is, liquor stores, bars, etc. The availability of alcohol was also considered as a factor and was measured by the number of alcohol retailers per square mile or by population.
Investigators examined more than 51,500 suicide victims and found that more than one-third (34%) of those who committed suicide also had alcohol in their system. Additionally, 22% had a BAC of greater than .08., the legal limit. They also discovered that greater numbers of alcohol retailers in a given area (or per population) were associated with increased suicide rates. This was especially true for men and Native Americans.
“There’s a long history with regard to drinking problems in many sectors of [Native populations]. It could be, partly, that the drinking patterns are somewhat different. I think it could also be that, in some cases, there may be a sense of desperation or many challenges. So, suicide may be one of the ways people deal with that.”
Gebrecht says that communities can help reduce the link between the use of alcohol and suicide by offering services and counseling to heavy drinkers who are under stress and possibly suicidal. He also noted that current policies that increase alcohol availability should be reconsidered.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology