HealthDay News — Service members who have to deal with trouble at home when they’re deployed may be at increased risk of suicidal thoughts, a study of U.S. veterans suggests.

In a survey of more than 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets, researchers found that about 14% said they’d had suicidal thoughts in recent months. And the odds were greater for those who’d dealt with family stress or felt unsupported by family members during their deployment.

The findings, reported recently in the journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, show only a correlation.

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They don’t necessarily mean that family problems caused service members to contemplate suicide, said lead researcher Jaimie Gradus, DSc, MPH, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

“This is just one study, and it surveyed veterans at one point in time,” Gradus said. “I think we need further research — and, in particular, longitudinal studies,” she added, referring to studies that follow people over time.

That way, researchers could see whether service members’ family problems actually come before any symptoms of depression or thoughts of suicide.

Gradus and her colleagues found that depression symptoms, and to a lesser extent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seemed to explain the link between family stress and suicidal thoughts.


Gradus J, et al. Family support, family stress, and suicidal ideation in a combat-exposed sample of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2015; doi: 10.1080/10615806.2015.1006205.