Increased Stress During Active Service

Suicide depression and anxiety dramatically increase in army

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There are dramatic mental health implications for those actively serving in the armed services. Recent findings reveal army suicide rates have dramatically increased in recent years.

Between 2004 and 2008, the suicide rate of active duty soldiers rose 80 percent from previous levels. Diagnosis for mental health treatment has risen as well.

"Service is stressful - seek out proper mental health treatment."

The study was led by Kathleen E Bachynski of the Injury Prevention Program, US Army Public Health Command.

“Army suicide rates have been increasing since 2004, and rates of mental illness, indicators of soldier stress, have also been increasing during this same time period. A number of identifiable mental health risk factors were found to be associated with suicide in the US Army, including mood, anxiety, adjustment, personality, psychotic and substance-related disorders,” note the study authors.

The researchers looked at suicide rates from several military sources from 1977 to 2008. From 1977 to 2004 the suicide rates were stable. However from 2004 to 2008 the rate began to rise - eventually surpassing the civilian suicide rate. For reference, the civilian suicide rate remained stable for the duration.

255 soldiers in active duty took their own lives in 2007 and 2008. These soldiers were primarily male (95 percent), Caucasian (73 percent), and of a low rank (54 percent). 69 percent had seen active combat.

During this time period army outpatient consultations for mental disorders almost doubled. Among the disorders related to higher suicide risk were depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, substance misuse, and psychosis.

The link between mental disorders and suicide rates may lead to better mental health treatment and suicide prevention in the armed forces, however, more research is needed.

“Further study is needed to define specific factors, both individual and social, which contributed to this increase. As risk factors for stress and mental health disorders, preparation for deployment and potential combat exposure may play an important role in these trends,” say the study authors.

Barbara Long, Ph.D., M.D., offers the following advice. "Don't be afraid to ask [friends and loved ones] if they are feeling like ending their life. Studies have shown that suicidal people have very mixed feelings about committing suicide and are usually relieved to know someone cares enough to ask the ultimate question. Most will answer you truthfully. If they say ‘yes’ to your inquiry, this is an emergency. Call for help (911) and stay with them until it arrives."

The study was published online March 7th, 2012 in the journal Injury Prevention and was funded by the U.S. Army Public Health Command. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 8, 2012
Last Updated:
March 16, 2012