September 21, 2009

More rural suicides linked to bars

The high number of bars in rural America has been linked to higher suicide rates and higher attempted suicide rates, U.S. researchers say.

Fred W. Johnson of the Prevention Research Center at Texas A&M University said there is a strong relationship between drinking and suicide. In any given year, people with alcohol dependence commit more than 20 percent of suicides in the general population; while 80 percent to 90 percent of alcohol dependence suicides are by men, mostly white, Johnson added.

Johnson, a corresponding author, and his colleagues examined population characteristics such as age, and place characteristics such as number of alcohol outlets in 581 ZIP code areas in California from 1995-2000.

The study, published online ahead of the print December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found completed suicides are more common in less populous ZIP code areas, such as rural communities, and in ZIP code areas with larger proportions of older, lower-income whites, but less common in ZIP code areas with larger proportions of blacks and Hispanics.

Although one cannot make the strong statement that more bars cause more suicides, our findings are at least consistent with what we would expect if patronizing bars or other alcohol outlets were in fact causally related to suicide, Johnson said in a statement.

The findings also suggests the suicide rate is higher in rural areas, Johnson said.