April 02, 2015
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Suicide risk not found to increase among deployed military members

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Deployed military personnel do not have an increased likelihood of suicide, but service members with premature military separation and discharge that is not honorable, may have increased risks, according to study data.

“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] and [Operation Iraqi Freedom] combat theaters may be associated with military suicides, the results of this research do not support that hypothesis,” Mark A. Reger, PhD, of the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma, Wash., and colleagues wrote.

Mark A. Reger

Researchers performed a retrospective cohort study, which included all service members from Oct. 7, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2007 (n = 3.9 million), to examine the link between suicide and service in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Overall, results demonstrated no association between deployment and suicide (HR = 0.96; 99% CI, 0.87-1.05).

Increased suicide rates were linked to military service departure (HR = 1.63; 99% CI, 1.5-1.77), regardless of deployment. Likelihood of suicide also increased among members who left service within 4 years and those who were dishonorably discharged.

“Further 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,” Reger and colleagues wrote. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.