Associations of vulnerability to stressful life events with suicide attempts after active duty among high-risk soldiers: results from the Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers-longitudinal study (STARRS-LS)

Psychol Med. 2023 Jul;53(9):4181-4191. doi: 10.1017/S0033291722000915. Epub 2022 May 27.


Background: The transition from military service to civilian life is a high-risk period for suicide attempts (SAs). Although stressful life events (SLEs) faced by transitioning soldiers are thought to be implicated, systematic prospective evidence is lacking.

Methods: Participants in the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (STARRS) completed baseline self-report surveys while on active duty in 2011-2014. Two self-report follow-up Longitudinal Surveys (LS1: 2016-2018; LS2: 2018-2019) were subsequently administered to probability subsamples of these baseline respondents. As detailed in a previous report, a SA risk index based on survey, administrative, and geospatial data collected before separation/deactivation identified 15% of the LS respondents who had separated/deactivated as being high-risk for self-reported post-separation/deactivation SAs. The current report presents an investigation of the extent to which self-reported SLEs occurring in the 12 months before each LS survey might have mediated/modified the association between this SA risk index and post-separation/deactivation SAs.

Results: The 15% of respondents identified as high-risk had a significantly elevated prevalence of some post-separation/deactivation SLEs. In addition, the associations of some SLEs with SAs were significantly stronger among predicted high-risk than lower-risk respondents. Demographic rate decomposition showed that 59.5% (s.e. = 10.2) of the overall association between the predicted high-risk index and subsequent SAs was linked to these SLEs.

Conclusions: It might be possible to prevent a substantial proportion of post-separation/deactivation SAs by providing high-risk soldiers with targeted preventive interventions for exposure/vulnerability to commonly occurring SLEs.

Keywords: Predictive analytics; STARRS; suicide attempts; transitional services; veterans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Military Personnel*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted*
  • United States