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Iraq, Afghanistan Deployments Don't Raise Suicide Risk

But further research needed to analyze combat exposure: scientists
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2015 3:25 PM CDT
Iraq, Afghanistan Deployments Don't Raise Suicide Risk
Suicide rates for troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan weren't significantly higher than those serving elsewhere, a new study indicates.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Don't blame the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq just yet for the growing number of military suicides. That's the conclusion of a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry that finds the suicide rate of troops deployed there was only a bit higher than that of troops who've served either in the US or elsewhere: 18.86 deaths per 100,000 for the former, 17.78 per 100,000 for the latter, the New York Times reports. But something's behind the increasing suicide rate in the military—the Times notes it's nearly doubled since 2005—and researchers say more research is needed. "As the wars went on, the suicide rates also went up and it was very tempting to assume deployments must be the reason," says lead author Mark Reger. "Our data don't support that."

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The study, said to be the largest of its kind, looked at the paperwork for 3.9 million troops who served from 2001 to 2007; among those service members, there were 5,041 suicides by the end of 2009, Reuters reports. What the study did find: The suicide rate for Army and Marine crews—which the Times notes took on most of the Iraq and Afghanistan fighting—was about 25% higher than that of the other branches, though the suicide rate in those two branches didn't differ much between those deployed and those who weren't. Another find: that troops who left before serving four years had almost double the suicide rate of those who stuck around; it was three times as high for service members who received a disciplinary involuntary discharge. The study could affect future suicide-prevention programs and the services veterans receive, the Military Times notes. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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