Alcohol problems may strongly increase suicide risk

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In a study from the University of Otago, scientists found harmful drinking is linked to a heightened risk of suicide.

They found that alcohol use disorder (characterized as alcohol abuse or dependence) strongly increases the risk of suicidal thoughts in adults.

The team analyzed data from the renowned Christchurch Health and Development (CHDS) study, a birth cohort of 1,265 children born in 1977.

The information from the study cohort was gathered in five data waves when participants were aged between 18 and 40.

For this study, factors were selected for analysis from the database due to their known association with alcohol use disorder and suicide; including family socioeconomic status, childhood punishment, abuse and neglect exposure, a family history of criminal offending, and a history of alcohol abuse.

In addition, the study was also able to account for the potential influence of other indicators of adversity in adulthood, such as employment status, relationship instability, and life satisfaction.

The team found that suicide risk was 50% higher in those with alcohol dependence.

They say such increased risk, found across ethnicities and in both males and females, backs up previous studies linking harmful drinking to suicidal thoughts.

Alcohol use disorder is among the most consistently established risk factors for suicide and is the second-largest contributor to overall suicide rates after major depressive disorder.

The team recommends these new findings be taken seriously in light of New Zealand’s alarming rates of hazardous drinking and suicide risk.

Ministry of Health data from 2020 shows 21% of adults meet hazardous drinking criteria, while coronial data in the year to June 2021 confirms 607 New Zealanders tragically took their own lives.

The World Health Organization highlights harmful drinking as a significant contributor to suicide.

This study should be further caused alarm at the government level that strong action is now needed to reduce alcohol-related harm, notably suicidal risk, at both a population and individual level.

If you care about alcohol, please read studies about the deep cause of alcoholism, and how alcohol, coffee, and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about the key to depression recovery, and results showing fishing could reduce severe mental health problems.

The study was conducted by Dr. Rose Crossin et al and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

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