Alcohol Policies and Suicide: A Review of the Literature

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016 Oct;40(10):2043-2055. doi: 10.1111/acer.13203. Epub 2016 Sep 12.

Abstract

Both intoxication and chronic heavy alcohol use are associated with suicide. There is extensive population-level evidence linking per capita alcohol consumption with suicide. While alcohol policies can reduce excessive alcohol consumption, the relationship between alcohol policies and suicide warrants a critical review of the literature. This review summarizes the associations between various types of alcohol policies and suicide, both in the United States and internationally, as presented in English-language literature published between 1999 and 2014. Study designs, methodological challenges, and limitations in ascertaining the associations are discussed. Because of the substantial between-states variation in alcohol policies, U.S.-based studies contributed substantially to the literature. Repeated cross-sectional designs at both the ecological level and decedent level were common among U.S.-based studies. Non-U.S. studies often used time series data to evaluate pre-post comparisons of a hybrid set of policy changes. Although inconsistency remained, the published literature in general supported the protective effect of restrictive alcohol policies on reducing suicide as well as the decreased level of alcohol involvement among suicide decedents. Common limitations included measurement and selection bias and a focus on effects of a limited number of alcohol policies without accounting for other alcohol policies. This review summarizes a number of studies that suggest restrictive alcohol policies may contribute to suicide prevention on a general population level and to a reduction of alcohol involvement among suicide deaths.

Keywords: Alcohol Policies; Blood Alcohol Content; Critical Review; Suicide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Suicide / prevention & control*