Suicide and alcohol-related disorders in the U.S. Arctic: boosting research to address a primary determinant of health disparities

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2011;70(5):473-87. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v70i5.17847. Epub 2011 Nov 1.


Objectives: To review the existing epidemiological literature on suicide and alcohol-related disorders and their social determinants in the U.S. Arctic, as it relates to U.S. government research and evaluation efforts, and to offer recommendations to boost research capacity in the U.S. Arctic and collaborations across the circumpolar Arctic as part of global health initiatives.

Study design: Synthetic literature review.

Methods: Published literature; federal and state reports on suicide and alcohol-related disorders; and federal databases on research and program evaluation in the U.S Arctic were reviewed, with a focus on epidemiological trends over the past 50 years.

Results: Suicide and alcohol-related disorders play a significant role in health disparities in the U.S. Arctic, with evidence of a disturbing prevalence trend over the past 50 years. Important variations exist in suicide rates across different regions of Alaska with different majority populations of Alaska Native cultural groups - and, in selected key instances, within these regions - with immense implications for guiding effective prevention efforts. Consequences of alcohol abuse are severe and particularly significant in their impact upon Alaska Native people. Health-related conditions associated with alcohol abuse are among the leading causes of mortality.

Conclusions: Recommendations to boost research capacity in behavioural health in the U.S. Arctic are offered, specifically on strategies and methods of inquiry and analysis; distinctions between populations and communities in rural circumpolar contexts; and future epidemiological and implementation research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Arctic Regions / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology
  • Suicide / ethnology*
  • Suicide / psychology