News Details

Study: Deployments Not Connected to Military Suicide

Source: Defense Centers of Excellence
Published: Thursday 02 April, 2015

Deployment to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom was not associated with suicide according to a study by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) highlighted in an article published online April 1 by “JAMA Psychiatry,” a journal of the American Medical Association.

The comprehensive study included more than 3.9 million service members who served in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps or Navy, including the reserves and National Guard, from October 2001 through December 2007. Data was analyzed on 5,041 suicides that occurred from October 2001 through December 2009 (including those that occurred after separation from the military). The association between suicide and deployment was similar within each of the services.

Mark A. Reger, Ph.D., deputy director and chief of research, outcomes and investigations at T2, and his coauthors used databases from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System (AFMES) to track deaths among active service members and the National Death Index (NDI) to identify all deaths within the United States. Deployment was not associated with the rate of suicide, according to the study results. Of the 5,041 suicides, 1,162 were service members who deployed (a rate of 18.86 per 100,000 person-years) and 3,879 were service members who did not deploy (a rate of 17.78 per 100,000 person-years).

However, the risk for suicide appeared to be higher for those who separated from the military with less than four years of service compared with those who served longer. For example, military personnel who left the service after 20 years or more of service had a suicide rate of 11.01 per 100,000 person-years, compared with those who served less than a year and had a suicide rate of 48.04 per 100,000 person-years, according to the results.

Possible reasons for the higher suicide rate among those who served for shorter periods of time might include the transition to civilian life, loss of a shared military identity and difficulty finding work, authors of the study said.

The study concludes, “In summary, the accelerated rate of suicide among members of the U.S. Armed Forces and veterans in recent years is concerning. Although there has been speculation that deployment to the [Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom] combat theaters may be associated with military suicides, the results of this research do not support that hypothesis. Future research is needed to examine combat injuries, mental health and other factors that may increase suicide risk. It is possible that such factors alone and in combination with deployment increase suicide risk.”

The full JAMA article is available online.

If you’re a service member in crisis, or know a service member who is, please call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, press 1. Confidential support is available 24/7. There is hope.

Original Article