Factors associated with multiple suicide attempts in a nationally representative study of U.S. military veterans

J Psychiatr Res. 2021 Aug;140:295-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.06.012. Epub 2021 Jun 7.


Objective: Veterans with a history of multiple suicide attempts are at increased risk for suicide mortality relative to those with a single attempt. However, little is known about factors that differentiate veterans who attempt suicide once compared to more than once. This study examined factors that distinguish single suicide attempters (SSA) from multiple suicide attempters (MSA) in a nationally representative sample of U.S. military veterans.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed a representative sample of 4069 U.S. veterans.

Analyses: (a) estimated the lifetime prevalence of SSA and MSA; and (b) examined factors that differentiated veterans with a SSA from MSA.

Results: The lifetime prevalences of SSA and MSA were 1.9% and 2.0%. The strongest correlates of MSA were history of lifetime depression (odds ratio [OR], 2.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.43-8.35), non-suicidal self-injury (OR, 3.28; 95% CI, 1.27-8.45), drug use disorder (OR, 4.0; 95% CI, 1.67-9.54), and marital status (OR, 0.40, 95% CI, 0.18-0.87), which accounted for 15.5%-41.4% of the total explained variance in MSA.

Discussion: Half of military veterans who have attempted suicide in the United States report more than one attempt, suggesting that suicide attempts are not a one-time occurrence for a substantial proportion of veterans. Veterans who attempt suicide more than once show more deliberate self-harm behavior and have greater psychiatric comorbidities relative to single attempters. Implications for future research examining risk factors for suicide attempts among veterans are discussed.

Keywords: Ideation to action; Military; Risk factors; Suicide; Suicide attempts; Veterans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans*