Alcohol consumption has ‘significant’ influence on suicide rates

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Alcohol consumption has a “significant” influence on suicide levels among young men, new research shows.

The study also found that the influence of alcohol consumption is “much larger” than that of unemployment in the male suicide rate.

“Higher alcohol consumption played a significant role in the very rapid increase in suicide mortality among young Irish males between the late 1980s and the end of the century,” the reports’ authors, Prof Brendan Walsh of University College Dublin and Dermot Walsh of the Mental Health Commission, said.

The research, which examines the period between 1968 and 2009, suggests that heavier taxation of alcoholic beverages could play a role in reducing the suicide rate among young men.

The “relatively lenient tax treatment” of alcoholic beverages over the last decade “does not reflect the widely-expressed concern about the high suicide rate among young people,” the report found.

The study, published in the Economic and Social Review, noted that the incidence of tax on beer had actually declined from 34% of the final price in 1999 to 29% in 2009, with a fall in spirit taxes also.

“The level of alcohol consumption is a significant influence on suicide among men in all age groups between 15 and 54 years,” the report said.

Unemployment is a significant influence in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups.

“Over the long-run, influence of alcohol consumption on the male suicide rate has been much larger than that of the unemployment rate.

“In particular, the rapid rise in alcohol consumption when unemployment was still high in the 1990s was associated with a sharp rise in the male suicide rate,” the report concluded.

The evidence, the report added, was less clear for females, apart from the 15-24 age group, where the alcohol link was “significant”.

View: Suicide in Ireland -the influence of alcohol and unemployment