Female suicides and alcohol consumption during perestroika in the former USSR

Authors

  • D. Wasserman,

    1. Swedish National and Stockholm County Council Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the National Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • A. Värnik,

    1. Estonian-Swedish Institute of Suicidology, Tallinn, Estonia
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  • G. Eklund

    1. Swedish National and Stockholm County Council Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the National Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
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Abstract

During 1984–1990, a decline in suicide rates of 32% for males and 19% for females took place in the former Soviet Union. The observed annual decrease in mortality from suicide was most marked for men in 1984–1986 and for women in 1984–1988. This article illuminates the hypothesis that the restrictive anti-alcohol campaign initiated by Gorbachev on 1 June 1985, in which prices of alcoholic beverages were raised substantially, had an impact on female mortality from suicide in the former Soviet Union. Data regarding alcohol consumption, female violent death (n=451537), suicide (n=94149), death due to accidental alcohol poisoning (n=28 078), and undetermined death, whether accidental or self-inflicted (n=23 982) were analysed for three Slavic (Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine), three Baltic (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) and two Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan and Kirgizia). Regression analyses with alcohol consumption as the independent variable and female suicide rates and female violent-death rates as dependent variables showed that suicide and alcohol consumption, as well as violent death and alcohol consumption, were positively correlated. However, alcohol seems to have a lower explanatory value for female suicides and female violent deaths compared with male suicides and male violent deaths. The attributable fraction of alcohol for female suicides in the whole USSR (27%) is estimated at approximately half of that for male suicides (50%).

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