I examined community risk factors that explained variation in suicide rates among young rural Alaska Native men, evaluating the effectiveness of local alcohol control as a public health policy to reduce this population's historically high vulnerability.
I compiled suicide data, alcohol control status, and community-level social, cultural, and economic characteristics for Alaska Native men aged 15 to 34 years in 178 small Alaska communities from 1980 to 2007. Poisson regression equations explained variation in suicide rates as a function of endogenous alcohol control and community characteristics.
Suicide rates were higher in communities prohibiting alcohol importation under state law, but the effect was not significant after controlling for other community characteristics. More remote communities, those with fewer non-Natives, and those with evidence of cultural divides had higher suicide risks. Communities with higher incomes, more married couples, and traditional elders had lower risks.
Alcohol control is ineffective in preventing suicide among Alaska Natives; suicide instead appears related to particular complex community characteristics that are either protective or increase risk. Communities have limited means to pursue economic and cultural development strategies that might offer more protection.