Study: Military suicides tied to mental health, gender, not deployment or combat

A new report published in a recent issue of JAMA has refuted the assumption that the experiences of combat and deployment were leading to the upswing of suicide deaths within the U.S. military

The study included data from more than 150,000 current and former U.S. military personnel across all of the service branches. Participants were assessed at three points between the years 2001 and 2008. There were 83 suicides during this time period among the study participants.

After adjusting for age and gender, the authors found the following factors to be most associated with an increased risk of suicide:

  • Male
  • Depression
  • Manic-depressive disorder
  • Heavy/binge drinking and other alcohol-related problems 

The researchers suggest that the higher rate of suicide may be a function of a higher rate of mental disorders among military personnel, which could be an indirect result of cumulative occupational stresses.

“Therefore, knowing the psychiatric history, screening for mental and substance use disorders, and early recognition of associated suicidal behaviors combined with high-quality treatment are likely to provide the best potential for mitigating suicide risk.”

The report, “Risk Factors Associated with Suicide in Current and Former U.S. Military Personnel” was published online on August 7.