Suicide Rates High Among Recent Veterans

A detailed new report from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that recent veterans commit suicide at much higher rates than people who did not serve in the military. The suicide rate was slightly higher among veterans who did not deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, which means that the issue could be much more complicated than veterans coming home and being unable to live with the trauma they experienced in times of war.

The researchers in the report looked at 1,282,074 veterans who served in active-duty units anytime between 2001 and 2007, and who also left the military during that time. It tracked veterans after their service until the end of 2009, and matched all of its records with the National Death Index. The report found that there were 1,868 suicides, or about 29.5 suicides per 100,000 veterans. That rate is about 50 percent higher among civilians who fall into similar demographics. This also means that, on average, one recent veteran commits suicide every day.

Examining the numbers

Suicide rates were at their highest for individuals who were in their first three years of being out of the military. Additionally, veterans who had been enlisted committed suicide nearly twice as often as those who had been officers. Single white men committed suicide most often, which lines up with patterns in the civilian population. Men accounted for 83 percent of the veterans in the study who took their own lives.

Female veterans committed suicide at twice the rate of civilian women, a much larger gap than the difference between male veterans and civilians. And one puzzling statistic — veterans who never went to Afghanistan or Iraq were 16 percent more likely to commit suicide than those who did.

Overall, there is a much higher rate of suicide for recent veterans today than there were in most previous generations. Although Vietnam vets committed suicide at elevated rates in their first years out of service when they were wounded in action or suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), overall suicide rates are higher today.

At this point, the researchers can only speculate as to why this is the case. One thought is that a weak economy made transitioning from war to civilian status difficult, but there will have to be further research to pinpoint clear causes.

If you have struggled with life as a civilian, there’s a chance you qualify for veterans benefits. Meet with a knowledgeable attorney at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban by contacting us online or by calling 866-866-VETS. We serve veterans nationwide. 

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