Patterns of suicidality and alcohol use in alcoholics with major depression

Jack R. Cornelius, Ihsan M. Salloum, Nancy L. Day, Michael E. Thase, J. John Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The aims of this study were (1) to comprehensively characterize a population of alcoholics with major depression in a psychiatric hospital, (2) to determine the prevalence of suicidal behavior in this sample, and (3) to determine whether quantity of alcohol ingested was associated with level of suicidality. Ratings of drinking, depression, and suicidality were obtained using both self-rated and observer-rated instruments. The prevalence of suicide attempts in the week before hospitalization was remarkably high, approaching 40%, whereas 70% had made a suicide attempt at some point in their lifetime. These suicide attempts were typically impulsive in nature, involving little if any premeditation. Most subjects reported drinking more heavily than usual on the day of their suicide attempt. Recent suicidal behavior was significantly associated with recent very heavy drinking (≤70 drinks per week) and with number of drinks per drinking day. Quantity of drinking per drinking day was also significantly higher in those making a recent suicide attempt. However, no association was found between quantity of alcohol consumption and suicidal ideation. These findings suggest that recent heavy alcohol use primarily affects suicidality by increasing the likelihood of acting on suicidal ideation rather than by inducing suicidal ideation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1451-1455
Number of pages5
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcoholism
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Quantity of Drinking
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


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