Drinking frequency and quantity and risk of suicide among men

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2007 Feb;42(2):153-60. doi: 10.1007/s00127-006-0144-1. Epub 2007 Jan 17.


Background: Individuals who die from suicide commonly have consumed alcohol immediately beforehand, often in large quantities. However, prospective cohort data on regular alcohol use as a risk factor for suicide are lacking.

Method: As part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 47,654 men free of cancer prospectively reported their drinking habits, including average use, drinking frequency, and typical maximal use on repeated occasions beginning in 1986. Participants were followed for death to 2002.

Results: A total of 136 men died from suicide during follow-up. Quantity of alcohol consumed per drinking day tended to be associated with a greater risk of suicide mortality, with an adjusted hazard ratio among men consuming 30.0 or more grams (more than two drinks) per drinking day of 2.42 (95% confidence interval, 0.75-7.80; P-trend 0.05). Average alcohol consumption, drinking frequency, and binge drinking were not independently associated with risk. The apparent relationship of quantity consumed per drinking day with risk was not substantially changed by adjustment for serious illness or other dietary factors and was most notable for suicide associated with firearm use.

Conclusions: Among men, risk of death from suicide tends to be associated primarily with quantity of alcohol consumed per drinking day, not with drinking frequency or overall alcohol consumption. This finding supports guidelines that limit consumption among men who choose to drink alcohol to two drinks or less per drinking day.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology