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What You Need to Know About Alcohol and Depression

Alcohol and Suicide Facts


Updated May 16, 2014

Occurrence and Statistics

In the U.S. there is a suicide every 17 minutes.
{“America Under Cover Documentary,” HBO documentary. In TV booklet - Feb. 2001}

In the U.S. there are over 30,000 deaths from suicide annually.
(Medline 2000)

Risk factors for suicide include depression, loss of job, living alone, poor social support, illness and alcohol use.
{alcoholmd.com - Oct. 2001}

About twice as many women attempt suicide, but men are four times as likely to die from the attempt than the women. In 1998, suicide took the lives of over 30,000 Americans, and is the eighth leading cause of death. It was the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15 - 24.
{"Women Attempt Suicide More Than Men," womensissues.about.com - Jan. 2002}

Most Americans are unaware of the high rate of suicide among senior citizens, and researchers at the University of Iowa College of Medicine have issued a wake-up call for the elderly, their families, caregivers, and physicians. Although older Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, they account for nearly 20 percent of all suicides. An estimated five million of the 32 million people 65 and older suffer from depression. They are a more determined group to act and they use more lethal methods.
{"High National Rate of Senior Suicide Gaining Notice," Health World Online - http://healthy.net - July 2002} Author's comment: Alcohol causes depression and/or makes depression worse, and makes it more likely that a person would commit suicide.

Role of Alcohol in Suicide

Every year in the U.S. there are over 30,000 deaths from suicide. The use of alcohol may increase the risk of suicide by deepening depression, negatively affecting the ability to make decisions under stress, and interfering with the treatment of mental illness. ‘Don't drink and drive’ is not enough. Far better is ‘don't drink.’
{Dr. David Hemenway, MD, researcher from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. September, 1999 issue of the American Journal of Public Health}

If you're depressed, don't drink. Even non-problem drinkers had an elevated risk of suicide in a Harvard Medical School study published in the Journal of Epidemiology. The study also found that the odds of attempting suicide are almost two times greater if you drink than if you are a teetotaler, even if you don't drink to excess. Alcohol relaxes inhibitions and makes it easier for thoughts to become actions. Alcohol is a depressant. Even relatively casual drinking or drug-taking is dangerous for people who are thinking of killing themselves. The problem is that people who are depressed or suicidal are often among those most likely to turn to alcohol or drugs, says Ronald C. Kessler, co-author of the study.
{"Alcohol fuels suicidal tendencies," WOR Health Center, Oct. 2002}

Relationship of Dietary Fats in Suicide Rates

A study of suicide rates in Europe found that countries with the highest per capita fat intakes also had the highest suicide rates. The majority of research, however, shows that essential fatty acids help to alleviate depression and boost moods.
{Natural Medicine Chest, Conquer Depression without Drugs, "Food and Mood," Let's Live magazine, Jan. 2000} Author's comment: Essential fatty acids are a different class of fats and they are the ones that help restore balance in the body.

June Russell is a retired health educator, researcher, journalist, and writer of health articles for newspapers and websites.

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