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Banning Alcohol Does Not Reduce Suicides, But Jobs and Elders Can Help

Shishmaref, Alaska. In October 2013, the community voted to uphold its local option law, banning the sale and importation of alcohol.

Shishmaref, Alaska. In October 2013, the community voted to uphold its local option law, banning the sale and importation of alcohol.


Banning alcohol in rural communities doesn’t affect suicide rates among Alaska Native men, but jobs and elders can help.

A study released by the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research finds that even though most suicides involve alcohol, prohibition doesn’t reduce those deaths.

But the study finds higher incomes, more married couples, and public assistance does.

The study also suggests that providing jobs for young men could reduce suicide rates but says communities often lack resources to create these opportunities.

Other indictors of reduced risk are strong cultural ties — represented by traditional elders and bridges between generational language gaps.

The study proposes integrating Native language and culture into education policy to strengthen these traditional ties.

Even though prohibition does not affect suicide rates, the measure is effective in other areas. The study says banning alcohol lowers rates of interpersonal violence, and local option laws are “credited” with improving public safety and reducing injuries and other deaths.

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