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.

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