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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