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Research Summary

Does Alcohol Increase Risk of Attempted Suicide and Suicidal Ideation in Black Adults?

Risk factors for attempted suicide and suicidal ideation among black adults are not well understood. To identify possible risk factors, researchers conducted a household survey of 5181 black adults in the United States between 2001 and 2003. Respondents completed a full diagnostic interview for psychiatric diagnoses and reported lifetime suicide attempts, ideation, and planning.

  • Four percent reported ever having attempted suicide, while 12% reported past suicidal ideation. Of those with past suicidal ideation, 35% had made a suicide plan.
  • In analyses adjusted for potential confounders (e.g., age, sex, birth cohort, other psychiatric diagnoses), blacks with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence had significantly higher risks of attempted suicide (odds ratios [ORs] 4.8 and 5.7, respectively) and suicidal ideation (ORs 3.3 and 4.0, respectively) than did blacks without alcohol diagnoses.
  • Eighteen other psychiatric diagnoses were also associated with higher risks of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation. Risks increased with each additional psychiatric diagnosis.


The finding of higher risks of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation among blacks with alcohol abuse and/or alcohol dependence is consistent with research on alcohol and suicide in other populations. However, because this paper did not focus only on alcohol diagnoses, it did not report on higher-risk subgroups of blacks with alcohol diagnoses or on the effect of alcohol treatment. Nevertheless, this research underscores the need to carefully assess suicidal ideation and plans among blacks with alcohol abuse and/or dependence.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc


Joe S, Baser RE, Breeden G, et al. Prevalence of and risk factors for lifetime suicide attempts among blacks in the United States. JAMA. 2006;296(1):2112–2123.