Suicide Attempt Risk among U.S. Army Soldiers without a Mental Health Diagnosis

December 21, 2018

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A recent study found that U.S. Army soldiers with and without a history of mental health diagnoses shared similar risk factors for attempted suicide.  

Using data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS), researchers identified soldiers who had attempted suicide and divided them into two groups: (1) those with a mental health diagnosis and (2) those without a mental health diagnosis. They compared these groups with a random sample of Army soldiers without a suicide attempt history by looking at the following variables:

  • Sociodemographic characteristics, like current age, race/ethnicity, sex, education, and marital status
  • Service-related factors, including age at Army entry, time in service, deployment status, delayed promotion or demotion, and military occupation
  • Medical history variables, such as recent health care visits for combat injury or other injury
  • Data from legal records, like victimization or perpetration of crime, and history of family violence 

The researchers found that soldiers with and without mental health diagnoses shared similar risk factors for suicide. Risk factors included being female; having less than a high school education; being in the first year of service; experiencing a previous deployment, promotion delay, or demotion; having an injury requiring medical care; and having a history of crime and family violence.

Personnel, medical, legal, and family service administrative records may be useful for identifying suicide risk among U.S. Army soldiers with and without a history of mental health diagnosis, the authors concluded.

Ursano, R. J., Kessler, R. C., Naifeh, J. A., Herberman Mash, H. B., Nock, M. K., Aliaga, P. A., . . . Stein, M. B. (2018). Risk factors associated with attempted suicide among U.S. Army soldiers without a history of mental health diagnosis. JAMA Psychiatry, 75(10), 1022–1032.