Recent Findings Concerning Alcohol Abuse and Suicide Policies minimizing harmful alcohol use are essential for suicide prevention.


By UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Recent studies conducted by UCLA professor Mark Kaplan and a team of researchers shed light on the association between alcohol abuse, racial-ethnic demographics, and suicide. The study, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, reveals patterns between heavy alcohol use immediately prior to suicide with certain demographic groups, notably 43 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native men and 35 percent of women demonstrated heavy alcohol use (defined as postmortem blood alcohol level at or above .08) at the time of suicide.

Other particularly vulnerable groups (demonstrating high alcohol use prior to suicide) include:

  • Latinos — 30.6 percent of men and 25 percent of women.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native — 43 percent of men and 35 percent of women.
  • White men — demonstrated 24.4 percent rate of heavy alcohol use.

“Using the 2005-11 National Violent Death Reporting System (n=52,276) and the 2001-02 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n=43,093), we examined odds of heavy alcohol use among suicide decedents relative to living respondents across racial-ethnic groups after stratifying by gender and then adjusting for age and alcohol dependence,” wrote Kaplan, lead author of the study and Social Welfare professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The paper “Heavy Alcohol Use Among Suicide Decedents: Differences in Risk Across Racial-Ethnic Groups” appears in the January 2016 online issue of the journal Psychiatric Services published by the American Psychiatric Association and emphasizes the markedly elevated risk of suicide associated with heavy alcohol use across all racial-ethnic groups and especially so for Hispanic women. According to Kaplan and colleagues, “Policies minimizing harmful alcohol use are essential for suicide prevention, particularly for the most vulnerable.”


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