UCLA Study Targets Heavy Drinking and Suicides During Economic Downturns

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Acute alcohol use is a risk factor for suicide among men during times of severe economic hardship, according to UCLA research findings released Tuesday.

While economic downturns have been linked previously to increased suicide risk in the United States, new research by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs sheds light on the role alcohol use may play in the relationship between economic conditions and suicide.

In conducting the study — which focused on the 2008 to 2009 recession period — UCLA Social Welfare professor Mark Kaplan and colleagues compared blood-alcohol levels in suicides to heavy alcohol use in the non-suicide comparison group in years before and after the downturn.

While economic recessions have been associated with both declines and increases in heavy alcohol use, the percentages of suicides who were intoxicated at the time of death increased during the recession, according to the study. What is unknown is whether this change in alcohol use prior to suicide mirrored patterns of heavy drinking in the general population, Kaplan said.

Kaplan’s findings show that, for men, alcohol involvement increased among suicides, revealing the “heightened importance” of acute alcohol use as a risk factor for suicide among men during times of severe economic hardship.

“Surprisingly, there is evidence that individuals intoxicated at the time of death did not necessarily have a history of alcohol abuse prior to suicide,” Kaplan said.

However, similar results were not found for women who died by suicide.

Kaplan suggests that women may show resilience to the interaction of alcohol and financial crises, and heavy alcohol use by women mirrored consumption in the general population.

Military Care for Mental Health Ailments Needs Improvement, L.A. Study Finds

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Care provided by the U.S. military health system to service members with post-traumatic stress disorder or depression is good in some areas, but lacks in other realms, a study released Thursday by a Santa Monica- based think tank said.

In particular, the military health system performs well in following up with patients after they are discharged from a mental health hospitalization, according to Rand.

The period after a patient is discharged can be a vulnerable time, making follow-up visits critically important for these patients.

The Rand survey also found that the vast majority of patients with a diagnosis of PTSD or depression received at least one psychotherapy visit.

This suggests that military patients who receive such a diagnosis have access to at least some mental health care.

“Regardless of where they serve, where they live or who they are, all members of the U.S. armed forces should receive high-quality mental health care,” said Rand psychologist Kimberly A. Hepner, lead author of the study.

“Developing transparent assessments of care that can be routinely reviewed both internally and externally are essential to ensuring excellent care for all service members and their families.”

The study found that there was need for improvement in some areas of PTSD and depression care.

Although most patients received at least one psychotherapy visit, the number and timing of subsequent visits may be inadequate to deliver evidence-based psychotherapy, Hepner said.

The survey reviewed administrative data and medical records of more than 14,500 active-duty service members diagnosed with PTSD and about 30,500 diagnosed with depression from January to June 2012. The review examined whether those service members were receiving evidence-based care in the year after diagnosis.

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