Some 22 US veterans commit suicide on a daily basis, a new VA study finds, marking a jump of about 20% from a 2007 study. And it's unlikely that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the key factor in the increase: More than two-thirds of the suicide victims are 50 or older, the Washington Post notes (see this chart). But even as the number of veteran suicides has increased, so too has the country's overall suicide rate; among all Americans who die by their own hands, the percentage that are veterans has actually shrunk since 1999.
"There is a perception that we have a veterans’ suicide epidemic on our hands. I don’t think that is true," says the epidemiologist behind the study. "The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it." Still, the suicide rate among veterans is three times the national figure, and advocates say action is needed. "The big problem we face in suicide prevention is that we have so little empirical evidence to tell us which programs work," says the researcher. But he hopes the latest study is a move in the right direction. (In other military health news, another study shows dramatic sleep deprivation is rampant among active-duty troops, ScienceNews reports.)