Alcohol Use Prior to Suicide Trends Higher in Women Than Men in New Study

Alcohol use preceding death by suicide increased among women compared with men in the United States between 2003 and 2018, according to a newly published study co-authored by UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Professor Mark S. Kaplan. The report, published in the May 2022 online edition of Addiction, a publication of the Society for the Study of Addiction, included data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The data included more than 115,000 men and women 18 years and older who died from alcohol-involved suicide from 2003 to 2018. Kaplan and co-authors Shannon Lange, Alexander Tran and Jürgen Rehm, researchers at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, in Toronto, found that while the prevalence of heavy alcohol use and the suicide mortality rate increased among men and women, women had experienced a notably higher increase in both. Because heavy alcohol use — a well-established risk factor for suicide — may have contributed to the observed sex disparity in the suicide mortality rate increase, the researchers sought to estimate the temporal trend of the sex- and age-group-specific proportion of suicides that were alcohol-involved in the United States. In the study period, the proportion of suicides that were alcohol-involved significantly increased on average annually for women of all age groups, while only middle-aged men experienced a significant average annual percentage increase, they reported. Kaplan and colleagues note that the results of the present study are important for both clinical and preventative efforts. “Evidence that alcohol use may have been a core driver in the accelerated increase in the rate of suicide among women will, hopefully, promote additional research in this area,” they wrote.


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