- Alcohol misuse is associated with a 94 percent increase in the risk of death by suicide.
- Alcohol can worsen feelings of loneliness and depression, enhance aggression, and lower inhibitions.
- The more heavily and habitually one drinks, the more vulnerable they are to death by suicide.
- Women's risk for death by suicide is particularly affected by heavy and prolonged drinking.
If you’re familiar with these feelings, you’re not alone. Each day, an average of 10 Canadians die by suicide. That’s about 4,000 each year. The more we talk about it, the more we can create space for support, healing, and recovery.
Recently, my fellow researchers and I dedicated our research to understanding the link between suicide and alcoholism and building more awareness and resources for those struggling. Here’s what we found:
How Alcohol Use Affects the Risk of Death by Suicide
When struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, it’s common to want to escape the pain you’re feeling inside. This is why many individuals often turn to risky behaviours, including using drugs and alcohol.
Alcohol is used as an attempt to numb and escape these feelings. Yet as a result, it often worsens the experience—and alcohol misuse is significantly associated with the risk of death by suicide.
Alcohol misuse is associated with a 94 percent increase in the risk of death by suicide. While it may offer a temporary escape from uncomfortable feelings, alcohol can have a negative effect in the long term.
Elevated Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings
When someone’s at risk for suicide, they may feel like they don’t belong. They may think they’re a burden to others and begin to develop a higher pain tolerance and fear of suicide.
As a result? We can develop a warped perception of suicide, weakening our efforts to avoid pain and protect our well-being.
Alcoholism: Quantity and Frequency of Alcohol Use
Alcohol on its own doesn’t directly cause suicide ideation. However, alcoholism and alcohol misuse can significantly increase one’s risk of death by suicide.
In our research, it was found that a higher frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed plays a major role in death by suicide. The more heavily and habitually one drinks, the more vulnerable they are to these risks.
Unique Background and Interactions
We each have unique tolerances, relationships, and reactions to alcohol. If you struggle with other mental health disorders, alcoholism can worsen depression and suicide ideation.
We found this risk was particularly high for women: Women who drank heavily for longer periods were more at risk for death by suicide.
There's Support and Healing for Alcoholism and Suicide
It’s OK to feel alone. It’s OK to experience depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. It’s OK to struggle with alcoholism. In other words, it’s OK not to feel OK. But do know that there is hope.
You or your loved one don’t have to feel this way forever. You can find lasting healing and recovery with resources far more relieving than alcohol or drugs. You’re needed today and always.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide and feel unsafe or in danger, call Talk Suicide Canada at 1.833.456.4566 24/7, or text 45645 from 4 p.m. to midnight ET. In the U.S., call or text 988 for 24/7 assistance. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
Isaacs, J. Y., Smith, M. M., Sherry, S. B., Seno, M., Moore, M. L., & Stewart, S. H. (2022). Alcohol use and death by suicide: A meta-analysis of 33 studies. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 52(4), 600-614. https://doi.org/10.1111/sltb.12846