Suicide Rates and Methods in Active Duty Military Personnel, 2005 to 2011: A Cohort Study

Ann Intern Med. 2016 Aug 2;165(3):167-74. doi: 10.7326/M15-2785. Epub 2016 Jun 7.


Background: Suicide prevention programs have become ubiquitous among military units; identifying temporal trends and nonclinical factors associated with the chosen suicide methods may help improve suicide prevention strategies.

Objective: To calculate suicide rates of active duty military personnel and identify those who are at risk for firearm-specific suicide.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Military units in the United States.

Patients: All active duty enlisted U.S. military personnel from 2005 to 2011.

Measurements: Suicide rates per 100 000 were calculated for each branch. Adjusted odds ratios for firearm-specific suicide were calculated with 95% CIs.

Results: 1455 military personnel committed suicide from 2005 to 2011. From 2006 to 2011, the rates were highest among army personnel (19.13 to 29.44 cases per 100 000). Among suicides with a known cause of death, 62% were attributed to firearms. The results of this study also suggest that among army personnel or marines who committed suicide, those with infantry or special operations job classifications were more likely than those in noninfantry positions to use a firearm.

Limitations: Results are generalizable only to enlisted personnel and reflect only stateside suicides. Data regarding previous psychiatric illness, deployment history, and firearms ownership were lacking.

Conclusion: These results may help inform policymakers and advisors about differences in risks of suicide and violent suicide among the armed services and may help guide efforts to prevent self-harm within the military.

Primary funding source: None.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality
  • Young Adult