Acute alcohol use could be one of missing links between economic hardship and suicide.
People who committed suicide during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 were more likely to have been legally intoxicated at the time than those who committed suicide during other recent years, according to research led by UCLA professor Mark Kaplan.
Although one-third of all people who commit suicide are intoxicated at the time of their deaths, extensive research has shown that individuals who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment in a down economy are at increased risk for suicide. At the same time, people overall tend to consume less alcohol during economic recessions.
The UCLA-led study found that, consistent with other findings, the number of suicide deaths did increase during the recession. However, despite noted declines in alcohol sales during tough economic times, the researchers found a positive relationship between economic downturn and alcohol use prior to suicide.
“This contradiction can be because while overall alcohol consumption goes down during recessions, there have been increases in detrimental drinking patterns and alcohol-related problems in certain individuals, particularly those affected by the recession,” said Kaplan, a professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
For the study, which was published by the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention, Kaplan and his colleagues reviewed seven years of data from 16 of the states that participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The NVDRS data showed that the number of suicides involving acute intoxication was 7 percent higher during the recession than it was from 2005 to 2007, before the recession began, a finding that suggests that acute alcohol use could be one of the missing links between economic hardship and suicide, according to Kaplan.