Heavy Alcohol Use Among Suicide Decedents Relative to a Nonsuicide Comparison Group: Gender-Specific Effects of Economic Contraction

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Abstract

Background:

The primary objective of this gender-stratified study was to assess the rate of heavy alcohol use among suicide decedents relative to a nonsuicide comparison group during the 2008 to 2009 economic crisis.

Methods:

The National Violent Death Reporting System and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were analyzed by gender-stratified multiple logistic regression to test whether change in acute intoxication (blood alcohol content ≥0.08 g/dl) before (2005 to 2007), during (2008 to 2009), and after (2010 to 2011) the Great Recession mirrored change in heavy alcohol use in a living sample.

Results:

Among men, suicide decedents experienced a significantly greater increase (+8%) in heavy alcohol use at the onset of the recession (adjusted ratio of odds ratio = 1.15, 95% confidence interval = 1.10 to 1.20) (relative to the prerecession period) than did men in a nonsuicide comparison group (−2%). Among women, changes in rates of heavy alcohol use were similar in the suicide and nonsuicide comparison groups at the onset and after the recession.

Conclusions:

Acute alcohol use contributed to suicide among men during the recent economic downturn. Among women who died by suicide, acute alcohol use mirrored consumption in the general population. Women may show resilience (or men, vulnerability) to deleterious interaction of alcohol with financial distress.

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