#237 – Veteran Suicide Risk

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Based on research by Kang, Han K., Bullman, T. A., Smolenski, D. J., Skopp, N. A., Gahm, G. A., & Reger, Mark A. (2015) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

We usually think that veterans’ suicides are due to their experiencing war and trauma. Is this true? Does examination of the data confirm this?

Veteran and military psychologist researchers conducted a study to determine suicide risk of veterans who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They evaluated 9000 deaths; almost 2,000 were by suicide. Their analysis revealed that veterans had between a 40% to 60% higher risk of suicide compared to the US general population.

However, when comparing deployed and non-deployed veterans, contrary to popular belief, the risk of suicide was NOT associated with a history of deployment to a war zone. When they controlled for age, sex, race, marital status, branch of service, and rank, it was discovered that deployed veterans actually showed a lower risk of suicide compared with those who never deployed. Even having multiple deployments was not associated with an increased suicide risk.

The higher risk for suicide among veterans is alarming. When veterans return home from a supportive and effective team and meaningful service, let’s provide special services and welcome to help all veterans make a smooth transition to a meaningful work and community life.

References:

Kang, Han K., Bullman, T. A., Smolenski, D. J., Skopp, N. A., Gahm, G. A., & Reger, Mark A. (2015). Suicide risk among 1.3 million veterans who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Annals of epidemiology, 25(2), 96-100.

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