Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicide: A Meta-Analysis

The full title of this research meta-analysis was actually Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempt, and Completed Suicide: A Meta-Analysis and comes from the PLOS website.

Thanks to the alcohol industry for providing the perfect image via their own advertising …..

Absolute hangover .....



Several original studies have investigated the effect of alcohol use disorder (AUD) on suicidal thought and behavior, but there are serious discrepancies across the studies. Thus, a systematic assessment of the association between AUD and suicide is required.


We searched PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus until February 2015. We also searched the Psycinfo web site and journals and contacted authors. We included observational (cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional) studies addressing the association between AUD and suicide. The exposure of interest was AUD. The primary outcomes were suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide. We assessed heterogeneity using Q-test and I2 statistic. We explored publication bias using the Egger’s and Begg’s tests and funnel plot. We meta-analyzed the data with the random-effects models. For each outcome we calculated the overall odds ratio (OR) or risk ratio (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).


We included 31 out of 8548 retrieved studies, with 420,732 participants. There was a significant association between AUD and suicidal ideation (OR=1.86; 95% CI: 1.38, 2.35), suicide attempt (OR=3.13; 95% CI: 2.45, 3.81); and completed suicide (OR=2.59; 95% CI: 1.95, 3.23 and RR=1.74; 95% CI: 1.26, 2.21). There was a significant heterogeneity among the studies, but little concern to the presence of publication bias.


There is sufficient evidence that AUD significantly increases the risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide. Therefore, AUD can be considered an important predictor of suicide and a great source of premature death.

Darvishi N, Farhadi M, Haghtalab T, Poorolajal J (2015) Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempt, and Completed Suicide: A Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0126870. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0126870

Presented without comment.

Edited to add 13th June 2016:

Alcohol stories: a lifecourse perspective on self-harm, suicide and alcohol use among men

Alcohol use is associated with increased risk of suicide, though the relationship is complex. Alcohol use is directly implicated in around half of all completed suicides; and those who are alcohol dependent are more likely than those without alcohol problems to take their own lives | Alcohol Research UK, UK


5 thoughts on “Alcohol-Related Risk of Suicide: A Meta-Analysis

  1. Hmmm, there was a time that I could read those figures and interpret them. Not anymore. 🙁 It is something like this:
    OR = 3,13 means that the chance that somebody who is addicted to alcohol tries to commit suicide is 3,13 times bigger than those who are not addicted.
    CL 95% = Confidence level of 95% meaning that if you were to repeat the whole study a 100 times over, you would get the same results in 95% of the cases and in 5% of the cases you would get something else. It’s like you and I always throw 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 when throwing dices and a 100 persons together of 1 family all have these 5 awfull nieces and nephews who keep on throwing 6 over and over again. In this case it is a bit funny because they added up different researches so I guess they ‘just’ took the lowest CL of the study they added up. Or maybe social studies do not work with higher confidence levels? You would not want to use this 95% thing for studies like ‘does this chair fall apart when being seated on’ / ‘does this food sample contain poisonous fungy yes or no’. 😀
    The number 2.45, 3.81 indicate the standard deviation field (or?) which is an indication of the spread around the mean 3,13. In laymens terms one could, hmmm, say that compared to a non addicted person, the chances of an addicted person trying to commit suicide have been found to lay between 2,45 as high to 3,81 as high. Which… depends on the study, persons, methods, questionaire or just because life is not totally sure and measurable.

    I’ve been sober 11 months now, no problem. Looking at the severity of suicidal thoughts I had when I drank (which bty disappeared IMMEDIATELY when I quit drinking… ) I do think that I would be one of the persons at risk if I were to relapse. However… I am currently reading up on and working on the subject ‘shame’ and that changes a LOT in how I perceive myself and ‘what needs to die’.

    My intellectual understanding of suicide is that, generally speaking, it is a way to ‘kill what can not be carried / one can not live with’ – and that the ‘baby’ get thrown out him/herself with the bath water. 🙁 A sad misunderstanding, like being addicted; a sad misunderstanding of how to deal with Life. My believe is that shame and possibly guilt too have a big influence here. Well, they do in my life. Work in progress. 🙂

    xx, Feeling

    1. I think the take-away feeling is that it is statistically significant so p = <0.05 🙂 As for suicide I volunteered as a Samaritan for 5 years and I considered it the act of someone in intense emotional or physical pain who felt that the issue was permanently unresolvable and that taking their own life was the only option. I would ask callers why they felt this was the answer and they would often say that they just wanted it to stop (whatever 'it' was for them). I don't think that the stop they intended was as permanent as the outcome 🙁 Hope you're enjoying Brene's book - it's life changing 🙂

  2. Yes, that difference between ‘it’ and ‘my life’ – it is big, but when in that stage when ‘contemplating’ suicide they merge. ‘It’ becomes ‘me’. I am thinking this is where shame plays a big part as my definition of it is ‘the feeling of unworthyness’ – when this becomes big the actuall issues and the ‘I’ merge.

    I am ‘enjoying’ the book, Feelingwise ;-). I feel parts of me that have been covered up by shame re-integrate. Good 🙂

    1. Well put feeling 🙂 Confusing behaviour-induced guilt with shame-induced core unworthiness is a big deal for me too but I’m getting better at it and reading her book helped massively so good to hear it’s working for you too! xx

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