Math Model May Reduce Military Suicides

One notable factor: Older enlistees seem to be at higher risk
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2014 5:19 PM CST
Math Model May Reduce Military Suicides
A member of an honor guard waits for the arrival of visitors to the annual Veterans Day Observance Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, Nov. 11.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The US military's quest to curb its rising rate of suicides may get some help from a sophisticated new computer program, reports LiveScience. In a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers explain how they crunched data from 53,000 Army soldiers who were hospitalized between 2004 and 2009 with some kind of psychiatric disorder. Those who were deemed high risk, about 5% of the sample, were 15 times more likely to commit suicide in the year following their discharge than others in the group. Among the telltale traits were obvious ones such as a previous suicide attempt or access to guns, but also things such as enlisting after the age of 26 and having a higher IQ.

“There’s this group that comes to the Army later in life—they’re smart, they have skills, they tend not to be married and they have no career or have left a career to join,” the Harvard professor who led the study tells the New York Times. “We don’t know why they should be at higher risk, but they appear to be.” An Army spokesman says more study is needed before the model is used as standard procedure, citing "complex privacy and ethical concerns," reports USA Today. But eventually, it could be used to be more proactive in making sure high-risk vets get the support they need. (More suicide stories.)

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