Risk of suicide attempt in reserve versus active component soldiers during deployment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2022 Feb;52(1):24-36. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12770. Epub 2021 May 25.


Introduction: Little is known about the degree to which U.S. Army soldiers in the Reserve Components (Army National Guard and Army Reserve) and Active Component (Regular Army) differ with respect suicide attempt (SA) risk during high-stress times, such as deployment.

Method: Using administrative person-month records of enlisted soldiers on active duty during 2004-2009, we identified 1170 soldiers with a medically documented SA during deployment and an equal-probability control sample of other deployed soldiers (n = 52,828 person-months). Logistic regression analyses examined the association of Army component (Guard/Reserve vs. Regular) with SA before and after adjusting for socio-demographic and service-related predictors.

Results: Guard/Reserve comprised 32.1% of enlisted soldiers and 19.7% of suicide attempters in-theater, with a SA rate of 81/100,000 person-years (vs. 157/100,000 person-years among Regular; rate ratio = 0.5 [95% CI = 0.5-0.6]). Risk peaked near mid-deployment for both groups but was consistently lower for Guard/Reserve throughout deployment. Guard/Reserve had lower odds of SA after adjusting for covariates (OR = 0.7 [95%CI = 0.6-0.8]). Predictors of SA were similar between components.

Conclusions: Guard/Reserve and Regular soldiers had similar patterns and predictors of SA during deployment, but Guard/Reserve had lower risk even after controlling for important risk factors. Additional research is needed to understand the lower SA risk among Guard/Reserve in-theater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Afghanistan
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Military Personnel*
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted*
  • United States / epidemiology