60-Second Science

Double Suicide Risk For Vets

Military veterans are twice as likely as non-vets to take their own lives, with those having health problems at the highest risk. Steve Mirsky reports.

June 12, 2007  Double Sucide Risk For Vets

Veterans, especially wounded ones, also carry psychic scars of their war experiences.  Those mental wounds can also sometimes be fatal.  A new study finds that former military personnel are twice as likely to commit suicide as are people who never served.  The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.  Those at the highest risk were veterans who were sidelined from home, work or leisure activities because of health issues.  So doctors, friends and family members should be extra alert for signs of suicidal intentions in soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, especially wounded ones. 

The researchers followed over 300,000 veterans for 12 years.  Some of the vets in the study went all the way back to World War I, with the more recent vets having served in the first Iraq War in the early ‘90s.  Some quirky findings in the study.  Overweight veterans were less likely to take their own lives than men of normal weight.    But vets who were white, older, better educated and never married were more likely to take their own lives than were people in the general population.

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