Published on

New Study Finds 'Staggering' Suicide Rates Among Female Veterans

Cross-sectional study on government data exposes 'harsh' reality of military life for women

Female veterans are six times more likely than non-veterans to commit suicide, according to new statistics. (Photo: US Air Force/flickr/cc)

Female veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of civilian women and at rates nearly equal to that of male veterans, according to new government statistics which expose disturbing questions about the experiences of women who serve in the armed forces.

A cross-sectional study published in Psychiatric Services, which compiled 11 years' worth of data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), found that 28.7 out of every 100,000 servicewomen committed suicide in 23 states between 2000 and 2010, compared to 5.2 non-military women.

Rates were highest among younger veterans, with women in the 18-29 age range being nearly 12 times as likely to commit suicide than non-veterans.


We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit news service. All of our content is free to you - no subscriptions; no ads. We are funded by donations from our readers. This media model only works if enough readers pitch in. We have millions of readers every month and, it seems, too many take our survival for granted. It isn't. Our critical Mid-Year fundraiser is off to a very slow start - only 206 readers have contributed a total of $7,500 so far. We must raise $42,500 more before we can end this fundraising campaign and get back to focusing on what we do best.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, we need you.
Please make a tax-deductible gift to our Mid-Year Fundraiser now!

Donate Now!

The LA Times, which first reported on the study on Monday, writes:

It is not clear what is driving the rates. VA researchers and experts who reviewed the data for The Times said there were myriad possibilities, including whether the military had disproportionately drawn women at higher suicide risk and whether sexual assault and other traumatic experiences while serving played a role.


Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

Whatever the causes, the consistency across age groups suggests a long-standing pattern.

The study was conducted by Claire Hoffmire, a VA epidemiologist; Dr. Janet Kemp, associate director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Suicide Prevention Hotline; and Dr. Robert Bossarte, director of the VA Epidemiology Program.

The LA Times continues:

Hoffmire pointed to recent research showing that men and women who join the military are more likely to have endured difficult childhoods, including emotional and sexual abuse.

...Though the U.S. military has long provided camaraderie and a sense of purpose to men, it has been a harsher place for women. "They lack a sense of belonging," said Leisa Meyer, a historian at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and an expert on women in the military.

In an interview with NPR in 2010, Kemp said many of the women who call the VA's hotline are grappling not only with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and readjustment issues, but also with rape and sexual assault they endured while in the military. Moreover, she said at the time, they worry about how their PTSD affects their children.

"They worry that because they sometimes get angry and don't deal with things well that they won't be appropriate with their kids," Kemp told NPR. "And I think that is one of the things that it most poignant on the hot line is when young mothers call and they're concerned about their ability to take care of their children because of their problems."

The newest statistics are "staggering," Dr. Matthew Miller, an epidemiologist and suicide expert at Northeastern University who was not involved in the research, told the LA Times on Monday. "We have to come to grips with why the rates are so obscenely high."

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news outlet. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article