HEADLINES Published July10, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

New Soldiers Are More Likely to Attempt Suicide

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An Army funeral at a U.S. military cemetery. This death was not due to suicide, but suicide rates have soared in all branches of the military.
(Photo : Win McNamee, Getty Images)

Newer enlisted soldiers who have not deployed to a battle zone are more likely to attempt suicide during wartime. Officers are less likely to attempt suicide. These findings are from a large study of suicide and depression in the U.S. military.

This study may help the Army identify which suicide prevention programs are more likely to help.

The study also found that suicide attempts are more common in women in the service and in service members who do not have at least a high school diploma. Suicide attempts are more common in soldiers in their first four years of service and were more likely in the second month of service. Also at higher risk of attempting suicide are those under age 29 and those who entered the Army at age 25 or older. This may be due to these soldiers having more trouble adjusting to military life.

Although enlisted personnel (soldiers who are not officers) make up 84% of the Army, they account for nearly 99% of suicide attempts. Officers, who make up the rest of the Army, account for only 1.4% of suicide attempts.

The study looked at nearly 10,000 suicide attempts and deaths due to suicide among almost one million members of the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2009. This period of time covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and also covered a time when suicide rates among American soldiers have risen sharply. The study is known as the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS).

Attempts at suicide are more common than successful suicides. Attempts in women were more common than in men, but suicide deaths were less common in women.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. For more information on suicide in the military and the Army STARRS study, go to http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention-studies/army-study-to-assess-risk-and-resilience-in-servicemembers-army-starrs-a-partnership-between-nimh-and-the-us-army.shtml.  

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