Younger Military Veterans Have Higher Suicide Risk

the Psychiatry Advisor take:

Military suicides have increased an unprecedented amount in the last 10 years. While many researchers focus on risk factors in individual soldiers, generational differences may be to blame, according to research published in Armed Services and Society.

Building on research suggesting that increased suicide rates among young adults reflect generational declines in social integration (such as access to stable, predictable, and lasting supportive relationships) and  behavioral regulation (norms that determine whether certain behaviors are acceptable), James Griffith, PhD, and Craig Bryan, PsyD, ABPP, from the National Center for Veterans Studies at The University of Utah noted evidence in high school and college students reflecting increased emotional problems, behavioral problems, and generational shifts in their values.

“The fact that a comparable rise in suicides has not been seen among adolescents and young adults more broadly across the U.S. suggests the possibility that the Army is recruiting individuals with more risk factors,” the researchers noted.

This theory is supported by recent trends since the beginning of the all-volunteer force. Since elimination of the draft, military service has decreased, and of that pool of volunteers, almost half are accepted into military service. This is a much higher proportion that the 7% acceptance rate during the time of the military draft. Of those accepted, larger proportions have waivers for health conditions and behavioral problems, and more come from nontraditional family structures.

Younger Military Veterans Have Higher Suicide Risk
Generational values and recruitment of higher risk military personnel may help explain the U.S. military’s higher suicide rates.

In the last 10 years, the U.S. military has experienced an unprecedented increase in suicides among personnel. While many researchers have largely focused on risk factors among individual soldiers, in a new study, researchers contend that the increase in suicide may also indicate increased vulnerability among more recent generations of young adults. Evidence supporting this perspective is out today in Armed Services and Society.

James Griffith and Craig Bryan from the National Center for Veterans Studies at The University of Utah build on research suggesting that increased young adult suicide rates reflect generational declines in social integration (such as access to predictable, stable, and enduring relationships for support and relief) and behavioral regulation (norms that determine the acceptability of certain behaviors).

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