Attempted Suicide Most Common in New Soldiers

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Women, whether they were enlisted or officers, were twice as likely to attempt suicide as men.
Women, whether they were enlisted or officers, were twice as likely to attempt suicide as men.

HealthDay News — Among US Army personnel, enlisted soldiers on their first tour of duty appear to be most at risk for attempted suicide, according to research published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

In 2014, as part of the Army's Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, investigators analyzed monthly records of suicide attempts collected by the Army and the US Department of Defense. The study team focused on records that registered suicide attempts, as opposed to completed suicides, among active-duty regular Army soldiers from 2004 through 2009. Neither former Army personnel nor those treated outside the Army's health care system were included in the analysis. During that time, 9,791 Army personnel attempted suicide, according to the report.

Although enlisted soldiers make up roughly 84% of the active-duty Army pool, they made up 98.6% of the attempts, the researchers found. By contrast, commissioned and warrant officers made up just 1.4% of the attempts. Women, whether officers or enlisted, were more than twice as likely as men to attempt suicide. Also, the risk for attempted suicide was 13 times higher among female enlisted soldiers than female officers.

It was 16 times higher among enlisted soldiers entering the Army at age 25 and older compared to officers entering the Army at a similar age. Risk was also higher for whites; those with less than a high school education; those in the first four years of service; those who had never been deployed; and those diagnosed with a mental health condition in the prior month.

"Those who were female, younger, early in their career, with a recent mental health problem, and never or previously deployed were at greatest risk," lead author Robert Ursano, MD, chair of psychiatry at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., told HealthDay. "By understanding who is at risk and when they are at risk, we can much better target treatments."

Reference

Ursano RJ, et al. Suicide Attempts in the US Army During the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2004 to 2009. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0987

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