Could Life Insurance Be a Factor in Military Suicides?

Suicide numbers have spiked since life insurance coverage went up

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 9, 2013 6:35 PM CDT
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(Newser) – It's a depressing proposition to consider, but it's one the LA Times tackles anyway: Could life insurance play a role in the recent increase in military suicides? It's not a question that has been studied specifically, and no expert the paper spoke to suggested it was likely to be a major influence on a soldier's decision to take their own life; but a psychologist studying military suicide at Florida State University says it "absolutely could factor in." In 2005, Congress raised the standard life insurance coverage for active-duty service members from $250,000 to $400,000. Since then, the number of suicides has spiked.

A suicide prevention researcher from the University of Hong Kong suggests the US military should consider an exclusion period for suicide coverage to buy more time to help turn soldiers' lives around. "You have more opportunity to come in and change the situation," he says. Previous studies of civilian suicides have found a link between insurance policies that cover suicide and those who commit it. But the director of the Defense Department's Suicide Prevention Office says it wouldn't be fair to "penalize" the families of suicide victims. And a suicide expert at the University of South Carolina questions whether it would make a difference anyway. "Most people who commit suicide are impulsive, and it's often related to acute stress," she says. "I don't think they're that calculating."

An American flag is folded over the casket of a soldier.
An American flag is folded over the casket of a soldier.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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