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Sociodemographic and career history predictors of suicide mortality in the United States Army 2004-2009

Publication Abstract

Gilman, S.E., E.J. Bromet, K.L. Cox, L.J. Colpe, C.S. Fullerton, M.J. Gruger, Steven Heeringa, L. Lewandowski-Romps, A.M. Millikan-Bell, J.A. Naifeh, M.K. Nock, M.V. Petukhova, N.A. Sampson, Michael Schoenbaum, M.B. Stein, R.J. Ursano, S. Wessely, A.M. Zaslavsky, and R.C. Kessler. 2014. "Sociodemographic and career history predictors of suicide mortality in the United States Army 2004-2009." Psychological Medicine, 44(12): 2579-2592.

Background: The US Army suicide rate has increased sharply in recent years. Identifying significant predictors of Army suicides in Army and Department of Defense (DoD) administrative records might help focus prevention efforts and guide intervention content. Previous studies of administrative data, although documenting significant predictors, were based on limited samples and models. A career history perspective is used here to develop more textured models. Method: The analysis was carried out as part of the Historical Administrative Data Study (HADS) of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). De-identified data were combined across numerous Army and DoD administrative data systems for all Regular Army soldiers on active duty in 2004-2009. Multivariate associations of sociodemographics and Army career variables with suicide were examined in subgroups defined by time in service, rank and deployment history. Results: Several novel results were found that could have intervention implications. The most notable of these were significantly elevated suicide rates (69.6-80.0 suicides per 100 000 person-years compared with 18.5 suicides per 100 000 person-years in the total Army) among enlisted soldiers deployed either during their first year of service or with less than expected (based on time in service) junior enlisted rank; a substantially greater rise in suicide among women than men during deployment; and a protective effect of marriage against suicide only during deployment. Conclusions: A career history approach produces several actionable insights missed in less textured analyses of administrative data predictors. Expansion of analyses to a richer set of predictors might help refine understanding of intervention implications. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014.

DOI:10.1017/S003329171400018X (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC4113022. (Pub Med Central)

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