Almost one-fourth of suicide victims in the United States are legally intoxicated at the time of death, a new study has found.
People who commit suicide while intoxicated are much more likely than those who are sober to kill themselves by violent means, such as using a firearm, falling or hanging themselves, Fox News reports.
The researchers analyzed the blood-alcohol levels of almost 58,000 people who committed suicide. They found 22 percent overall were drunk when they died—24 percent of men, and 17 percent of women.
“This is the largest study to date in the U.S. that looked at blood alcohol levels at the time of death,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Kaplan of Portland State University. “Most studies in the past have focused on the risk of suicide among people with chronic alcohol problems like alcoholism or alcohol dependence.”
Less than half of those who committed suicide had a problem with alcohol dependence or alcoholism, or a history of prior suicide-related behaviors, the study found. Three-quarters did have a history of mental health problems. Rates of alcohol-related suicides were higher among young men, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, veterans and those from rural areas, or with lower education levels.
“One hypothesis is these were individuals responding to major life stressors or crises, who engaged in drinking with a firearm present within a few hours of taking their lives and became disinhibited by the alcohol,” Kaplan told Fox News. “They were drinking excessively in order to make it possible to die by suicide.”
The study appears in the journal Injury Prevention.