Suicide among Veterans Highest in Western U.S., Rural Areas

September 29, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Denver Post

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released its first-ever state data on veteran suicide, which show substantial differences by state and region of the country. The data indicate that suicide rates among veterans are highest in western and rural areas, with higher overall rates among veterans compared to the general population in all states. Montana, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico were found to have the highest rates of veteran suicide at 60 per 100,000, compared to the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4. States such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky had high rates of veteran suicide in addition to more widespread use of prescription drugs, including opioids. According to Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist at the RAND Corporation, these findings suggest that factors such as gun ownership, limited access to health care, and opioid addiction may be associated with increased suicide risk among veterans. “This [finding] requires closer investigation into why suicide rates by veteran status are higher, including the role that opiates play,” he said.

Spark Extra! Access the veteran suicide state data sheets.