Depressive symptoms, alcohol use and coping drinking motives: Examining various pathways to suicide attempts among young men

J Affect Disord. 2018 May:232:243-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.02.028. Epub 2018 Feb 17.


Background: Research has identified several correlates of suicidal behaviors including depressive symptoms, alcohol use and coping drinking motives. However, their associations and their role as possible causal mechanisms in the prediction of suicide attempt are not well understood. This study examined, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, the potential pathways from alcohol use, drinking coping motives, and depression to suicide attempts.

Methods: Participants (N = 4617) were young Swiss men (mean age = 19.95) participating in the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors. Measures of depressive symptoms, alcohol use (total drinks per week, heavy episode drinking) and coping drinking motives were used from the baseline and/or 15-month follow-up assessments to predict follow-up suicide attempt.

Results: Main findings showed indirect associations through depressive symptoms, such that coping drinking motives were positively associated with depressive symptoms, which were in turn positively related to suicide attempts over time (for total drinks per week models, cross-sectional model: B = 0.130, SE = 0.035, 95% CI = 0.072, 0.207; longitudinal model: B = 0.039, SE = 0.013, 95% CI = 0.019, 0.069). Alcohol use was not significantly related to suicide attempt.

Limitations: Main limitation includes a low prevalence rate for suicide attempt potentially reducing power effects in the analyses and our focus on distal-yet not proximal, role of alcohol use on suicide attempt.

Conclusions: Findings of this study suggest that young men with depressive symptoms and/or those who use alcohol to cope with negative affect may benefit from programs targeting suicidal behaviors.

Keywords: Alcohol; Coping drinking motives; Depressive symptoms; Suicide; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Drinking Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult