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Risk Factors for Suicide and Medically Serious Suicide Attempts among Alcoholics: Analyses of Canterbury Suicide Project Data

Kenneth R. Conner, Annette L. Beautrais, Yeates Conwell

Objective: Alcohol dependence is a potent risk factor for completed suicide and medically serious attempts, but data are limited on factors that distinguish risk within this high-risk population. The purpose of this study is to identify risk factors for serious suicidal behavior among individuals with alcohol dependence. Method: Data on completed suicides and medically serious suicide attempters and controls were gathered in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, using psychological autopsy methodology. A subsample of adult alcoholic subjects was selected for analyses yielding 38 completed suicides, 62 medically serious suicide attempters and 46 community controls, all with alcohol dependence (past month). Multinomial logistic analyses were used to compare the two case groups to controls on demographic and diagnostic variables. Results: Mood disorders and financial difficulties were more frequent among medically serious attempters than controls. Completed suicides were older and were more likely to be male, to have mood disorders, partner-relationship difficulties and other interpersonal life events than were controls. Completed suicides were older and more likely to be male than were medically serious attempters. Conclusions: Risk factors in alcoholics are generally consistent with reports based on general samples of suicide and medically serious suicide attempts. Suicide prevention efforts in alcoholics, if they are to be successful, must include a focus on depression as well as interpersonal factors, including partner-relationship difficulties. (J. Stud. Alcohol 64: 551-554, 2003)