For Military Members, Deployment Not Associated with Suicide

Internal Medicine World Report, June 2015,

An analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry found that military personnel who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) did not have elevated suicide risks. However, the researchers reported that separation from the military appeared to affect this outcome.

An analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry found that military personnel who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) did not have elevated suicide risks. However, the researchers reported that separation from the military appeared to affect this outcome.

For their study, Mark A. Reger, PhD, of the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, and his colleagues analyzed data on deployment status for all service members who served from Oct. 7, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2007, as well as the total number of deaths and suicides that occurred during the same time period.

“Research on veteran suicide risk factors has increased in recent years but much of the research is limited to veterans who access health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This subgroup represents only approximately 35% of all veterans,” the authors noted.

Of the 31,962 deaths — 5041 being suicides – during the study period, the team found no association between deployment and suicide (hazard ratio, 0.96; 99% CI, 0.87-1.05). However, suicide risk significantly increased within four years of separation from service (hazard ratio, 1.63; 99% CI, 1.50-1.77), regardless of deployment status. Risk also increased for those who were dishonorably discharged. The investigators also noted that younger, male, unmarried, non-Hispanic whites, Native Americans, and Army and Marine Corps members seemed to have elevated rates of suicide.

This study was the first in the field to look for a relationship between deployment and suicide among all 3.9 million military personnel. The research team concluded by urging for additional research into factors that influence mental health and suicide, including combat injuries.