Female veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of civilian women and at rates nearly equal to that of male veterans, according to new government statistics which expose disturbing questions about the experiences of women who serve in the armed forces.
A cross-sectional study published in Psychiatric Services, which compiled 11 years’ worth of data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), found that 28.7 out of every 100,000 servicewomen committed suicide in 23 states between 2000 and 2010, compared to 5.2 non-military women.
Rates were highest among younger veterans, with women in the 18-29 age range being nearly 12 times as likely to commit suicide than non-veterans.
The LA Times, which first reported on the study on Monday, writes:
It is not clear what is driving the rates. VA researchers and experts who reviewed the data for The Times said there were myriad possibilities, including whether the military had disproportionately drawn women at higher suicide risk and whether sexual assault and other traumatic experiences while serving played a role.
Whatever the causes, the consistency across age groups suggests a long-standing pattern.
The study was conducted by Claire Hoffmire, a VA epidemiologist; Dr. Janet Kemp, associate director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Suicide Prevention Hotline; and Dr. Robert Bossarte, director of the VA Epidemiology Program.
The LA Times continues: