What are the rates of suicide among active and former military personnel?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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There has been a recent dramatic increase in suicides among military personnel. In the search for causes, researchers examined the association between deployment and suicide among all 3.9 million US military personnel who served during Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. They also explored suicides that occurred after separation from military service.

Results did not support an association between deployment and suicide mortality. However, results did show an increased rate of suicide associated with separation from military service regardless of deployment status. Rates of suicide were elevated among service members who separated with less than 4 years of military service or who did not separate with an honorable discharge. [88]

A study of more than 163,000 soldiers, with a focus on 9,650 soldiers who attempted suicide, found that those never deployed and women were more than three times as likely to try suicide. The study examined risk factors (sociodemographic, service related, and mental health), method, and time of suicide attempt by deployment status (never, currently, and previously deployed). The enlisted soldiers who had never been deployed accounted for 40.4% of all soldiers, but 61.1% of those who attempted suicide (n = 5894), with the risk of suicide highest in the second month of service. Risk among soldiers on their first deployment was highest in the sixth month of deployment and for those previously deployed, risk was highest at 5 months after return. [89]

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