Young Vets Drive 15-Year Surge in U.S. Veteran Suicide Rate, Including 85% Increase for Women

Friday, July 08, 2016
(photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images)


By Dave Philipps, New York Times


The suicide rate among veterans has surged 35 percent since 2001, driven in part by sharp increases among those who have served since 2001, according to the largest study of such suicides. Of particular concern is the suicide rate among women, which has increased 85 percent in that time.


The Department of Veterans Affairs released key findings Thursday of a recently completed study examining the death records of more than 55 million veterans from 1979 to 2014 from every state. The study provides for the first time a clear picture of an issue that has been a top concern of the Pentagon and the White house. Previous estimates relied only on 3 million death records from 20 states, not including the four largest, and depended on self-reporting of veteran status on death certificates.


“This isn’t an estimate, this is the answer,” Dr. David J. Shulkin, the department’s undersecretary for health, said Thursday.


Hardest hit were young veterans. The suicide rate for veterans age 18-29 was 86 deaths per 100,000 for men and 33 deaths per 100,000 for women — much higher than previous estimates, and almost twice as high as all other age groups. The civilian suicide rate is about 14 deaths per 100,000.


Shulkin said rates had increased across all age groups, but the rise among young veterans was “by far the highest.”


Women were also disproportionately hit. Though female veterans commit suicide at lower rates than their male colleagues, those younger than 30 are more than six times as likely to take their own lives as women in the civilian world. The agency’s suicide prevention experts have suggested that the higher rate is partly because female veterans, who gained familiarity with firearms during service, use guns much more often in suicide attempts.


The increasing rate across all veterans is part of a nationwide rise in suicides. Since 2001, the adult civilian suicide rate has increased 23 percent.


Shulkin said data on the connection between deaths and combat experience was not yet available but would be when the final study is released at the end of July.


To Learn More:

VA Conducts Nation’s Largest Analysis of Veteran Suicide (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

VA’s Suicide Hotline Allowed Calls to Go to Voicemail (by Matthew Daly, Associated Press)

Female Vets 6 Times more likely to Commit Suicide than Non-Vets (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Sen. Coburn Blocks Funding for Veterans Suicide Prevention Web Site (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

57,000 Veterans Waiting more than 3 Months for First Medical Appointments; 64,000 Not Even on the List (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Suicide Rate for Veterans Double Rate for Civilians (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Suicides by Veterans Average 18 a Day (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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