Background: Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances (DUI) and suicide are both persistent but potentially preventable public health problems. DUI offenders, particularly those who have repeatedly offended, report elevated risk for many suicide risk factors. However, researchers have not systematically studied associations between repeat DUI and suicide.
Methods: Out of a population of 729 repeat DUI offenders, 207 were asked about lifetime suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) and lifetime instances of DUI as an attempt at self-harm. We calculated rates of DUI as self-harm and compared lifetime STB rates to rates observed in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). In addition, we examined associations between known risk factors of STB (e.g. psychiatric disorders, marital status) and lifetime STB outcomes among repeat DUI offenders.
Results: Nearly 4% of repeat DUI offenders reported that at least one past experience of DUI was a deliberate attempt to take their own life and an additional 3.4% reported that at least one past experience of DUI was a form of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Rates of lifetime STB all were significantly higher among repeat DUI offenders than NCS-R respondents. For repeat DUI offenders, several risk factors (e.g. race/ethnicity, age, anxiety disorders, NSSI) shared significant relationships with at least one lifetime STB outcome.
Conclusion: An exclusive focus on drinking habits and problems is insufficient to address mental health risk among repeat DUI offenders, who might require specialized services designed to address STB.