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Health Team

Study: military suicides not connected with deployment

Posted August 6, 2013 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated August 6, 2013 5:48 p.m. EDT

Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. military.

Over the last decade, more than 2,700 active duty service members have taken their own life - and that number is continuing to rise.

Researchers examined the risk factors of active and reserve military personnel in all branches of service and found surprising information: suicide is not directly correlated to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

American service men and women face unique stresses, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Some people have thought these deployments have been increasing the risk of suicide,” said Cynthia Leard Mann of the Naval Health Research Center.

Researchers with the Naval Health Research Center looked at data from national death registries and the Millennium Cohort study, which looks at the long-term health effects of deployment on service members.

“In the last year, there’s been approximately one death per day on average due to suicide among our active duty force,” said Nancy Crum-Cianflone, director of the Millennium Cohort study team.

Researchers examined 22 risk factors, including the number and length of deployments, combat experience, rank and mental health disorders such as manic depression, depression and alcohol misuse.

“There was actually no relationship between deployments in support of the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent occurrence of suicide,” said Crum-Cianflone.

Male service members had twice the risk for suicide than female service members, but this same trend also exists in the general population.

“What we did find is that the mental health factors were associated with suicide, and these included depression, manic-depressive disorder and alcohol-related problems,” said Leard Mann.

"The majority of suicides happened among people who never deployed in support of the current operations,” said Crum-Cianflone.

Mental health screening and effective treatment are vital in decreasing the risk of suicide.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.