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Suicide Risk and Risk of Death Among Recent Veterans

Among deployed and non-deployed active duty Veterans who served during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars between 2001 and 2007, the rate of suicide was greatest the first three years after leaving service, according to a recent study.

Compared to the U.S. population, both deployed and non-deployed Veterans had a higher risk of suicide, but a lower risk of death from other causes combined. Deployed Veterans also had a lower risk of suicide compared to non-deployed Veterans.

These findings are from a study that looked at the vital status of 1.3 million Veterans from their time of discharge through the end of 2009. Read the study abstract.

Text version of infographic

Suicide Risk and Risk of Death Among Recent Veterans

A recent study of Veterans serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2001–2007 found that both deployed and non-deployed Veterans had a significantly higher suicide risk compared to the U.S. general population, but a lower risk of death from other causes combined. Also, deployed Veterans showed a lower risk of suicide compared to non-deployed Veterans. Veterans were followed through the end of 2009.

Risk comparison among Veterans serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2001–2007:

  • Deployed Veterans had a 41% higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population.
  • Non-deployed Veterans had a 61% higher suicide risk compared to the general U.S. population.
  • Deployed Veterans had a 25% lower overall risk of death from all causes compared to the general U.S. population.
  • Non-deployed Veterans had a 24% lower risk of death from all causes compared to the general U.S. population.

Deaths among Veterans serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2001–2007 (Veterans were followed through the end of 2009):

  • Deployed: 317,581 total Veterans, 1,650 total deaths. 21.3% death by suicide. 78.7% death by other causes.
  • Non-deployed: 964,493 total Veterans, 7,703 total deaths. 19.7% death by suicide. 80.3% death by other causes.
  • Deployed Veterans showed a lower risk of suicide compared to non-deployed Veterans.
  • Female Veteran suicide rates were about a third of the suicide rate of male Veterans.
    • Suicide rate of female Veterans: 11.2 out of 100,000 Veterans.
    • Suicide rate of male Veterans: 33.4 out of 100,000 Veterans.

The increased risk of suicide among female Veterans when compared to the U.S. female population was higher than that observed when male Veterans were compared to the U.S. male population, regardless of deployment status.

Deaths and suicides by gender and deployment:

  • Deployed all deaths: 68 deaths among females, 1,582 deaths among males.
  • Non-deployed all deaths: 738 deaths among females, 6,965 deaths among males.
  • Deployed suicides: 15 suicides among females, 336 suicides among males.
  • Non-deployed suicides: 109 suicides among females, 1,408 suicides among males.

Regardless of deployment status, the suicide risk was higher among younger, male, white, unmarried, enlisted, and Army/Marine Veterans; however, predictors of suicide were similar between male and female Veterans.

Suicide rate by year since discharge by deployment status of Veterans (Rate calculated per 100,000 person years at risk):

  • Within 3 years since discharge, 33.1 suicide rate by non-deployed Veterans, 29.7 suicide rate by deployed Veterans.
  • Within 6 years since discharge, 27.3 suicide rate by non-deployed Veterans, 24.7 suicide rate by deployed Veterans.
  • Within 9 years since discharge, 25.6 suicide rate by non-deployed Veterans, 26.1 suicide rate by deployed Veterans.

The rate of suicide was greatest within 3 years after leaving service.

Related research on recent Veterans

The National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans is a 10-year study of 60,000 Veterans who served during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF). The study provides insight on the overall health of recent Veterans and the health services Veterans need, and helps maximize the quality of care that VA offers.

Veterans Crisis Line

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders. Veterans and their loved ones can anonymously:

  • Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
  • Chat online
  • Send a text message to 838255

Confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.