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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Alcohol Policies Contribute to Suicide Prevention

Restrictive alcohol policies, such as those limiting liquor store density or imposing taxes on alcohol, have been shown to have a “protective effect” in reducing suicides, according to a newly published review led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The review, published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, examined associations between alcohol policies and suicides, as well as alcohol levels among suicide decedents, in 17 studies conducted between 1999 and 2014. While past research in the US and other countries has established a link between alcohol consumption and suicide rates, research into the relationship between alcohol policies and suicide has been limited.

The review found that overall, higher alcohol taxation was associated with lower rates of suicide. Similarly, studies gauging the effects of policies limiting liquor outlet density found an association between lower availability of alcohol and lower suicide rates, as well as lower odds of alcohol involvement (BAC levels) in suicide deaths. Other policies, such as “zero tolerance” laws for underage drinkers who drive while intoxicated, also were associated with a decline in suicides among young adults.

“Consistent with the conclusion that alcohol policies are among the most important population-level interventions that influence drinking levels and alcohol-related harms, our review found that such policies are important determinants in reducing suicide deaths,” said Dr. Ziming Xuan, assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH and the study’s lead author. “These findings highlight the importance of population-based alcohol policies in suicide prevention.”

To read more about the study, go to: