Identifying College Binge Drinkers at Risk for Suicide

A large portion of college students engage in social drinking. Many young adults who drink socially binge, consuming large amounts of alcohol in one episode. Previous research has demonstrated a link between binge drinking and suicidal ideation. Specifically, young adults who binge drink are more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide than those who do not binge. More importantly, individuals with depression are more likely to binge drink when they are alone, placing them at higher risk for negative affect, hopelessness, and despair, which can precede a suicide attempt. Because there has been very little research focused on how suicidal ideation and attempts influence the rate of solitary binge drinking in college students, Vivian M. Gonzalez of the Department of Psychology at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, examined this dynamic in 182 students ranging in age from 18 to 25.

Nearly one-fourth of the participants who reported drinking alone had attempted suicide, compared with only 8.5% of the social binge drinkers. The solitary drinkers also participated in social binge drinking more often than those who only drank socially. The study also revealed that prior suicide attempts increased the risk of solitary binge drinking by four times in the college students. Additionally, there was a direct relationship between the extent of suicidal ideation and solitary binge drinking, with more extreme and recurring ideation increasing the amount of solitary binging. The students with the highest number of previous suicide attempts had more solitary drinking days than those who had fewer suicide attempts, and they also consumed more alcohol when they binged.

The results of this study underscore the importance of incorporating suicide prevention strategies in alcohol abuse interventions. Particularly, young adults with a history of suicidal ideation, attempts, or depression, who binge drink when they are by themselves, should be targeted. Because intoxication can impair coping behaviors, these individuals may experience heightened aggression and negative affect, which can exacerbate their suicidal thoughts. Gonzalez added, “Given the associations found between solitary binge drinking and a history of suicide attempts, as well as greater severity of recent suicidal ideation, it appears that these students are in need of suicide prevention efforts, including treatment efforts aimed at reducing binge drinking.”

Gonzalez, V. M. (2012, January 30). Association of Solitary Binge Drinking and Suicidal Behavior Among Emerging Adult College Students. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026916

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  • tyler


    February 11th, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    I do think that kids this age binge drink for a reason, and it is not always about fitting in that we presume.\
    It is about trying to forget some things that may be going on in life, from tough classes to tough times at home.
    There is a REASON why this happens and it can’t always just be blamed on the college atmosphere.
    Sometimes this is about the adults in their lives turning a blind eye and refusing to see that something is going on that they could help with.

  • James B

    James B

    February 12th, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    So is who is supposed to be the ones identifying these factors? Professors? Roommates? self identification? I think that there are so many factors working against being able to accurately identify college students because they are so here and there, and the families sometimes lose touch with them once they start classes.



    February 12th, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    If u ask me any 1 w a prob w binge drinking is a risk 4 suicide. Obviously a prob there

  • Susanna


    February 13th, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    I disagree with JOelie. My own son was a victim of binge drinking, he died last year, but in no way do I think that he intentionally did it to end his life. He loved life and was trying to find ways to enjoy it to the fullest with his college friends. Unfortunately that led to drinking more than his body could handle and he died. It saddens me every day to think about the life that was snuffed out far too early, but I can tell you that for him and so many others it was a stupid mistake.

  • Ken.L


    February 15th, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Its not like drinking does this to you.People who are at risk of attempting suicide are usually sad or have problems and they attempt to drown their problems in alcohol.Same thing said a different way gives such a different meaning isnt it?

  • Cace


    February 15th, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    @Ken.L but drinking can certainly make those tendencies worse

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