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Keywords:

  • suicide;
  • violent death;
  • alcohol consumption;
  • epidemiology;
  • preventive medicine;
  • USSR

A significant decline (34.5%) in the suicide rate occurred in 1984–1988 throughout the USSR. The decline was observed shortly after the introduction of strict restrictions on the sale of alcohol. We tested the hypothesis that the restrictive alcohol policy in the first years of perestroika (June 1985) caused the fall in suicide rates in the former USSR. Data on alcohol consumption, violent death caused by external injury and poisoning (n= 916,315), death due to accidental alcohol poisoning (n= 77,837), suicide (n= 192,305) and death undetermined whether accidentally or purposely (n= 54,253) were analyzed for all former Soviet republics for 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990. Men were chosen for the analysis, since men are more prone to abuse alcohol than women. Regression analysis with alcohol consumption as the independent variable and suicide rates and violent death rates as dependent variables shows that suicide and alcohol consumption were positively correlated as were violent death and alcohol consumption. In the republics with high alcohol consumption (Slavic and Baltic), suicide rates were also high. In the Caucasian republics, low alcohol consumption was associated with low suicide rates. For most republics, alcohol seems to explain more than 50% of suicides. Alcohol also has considerable explanatory value for violent death. Thus, a restrictive alcohol policy might be a way to reduce suicide and violent death.