Here’s what first-ever data shows about military family suicides
By: Karen Jowers
September 26, 2019
Of the 123 spouses who died by suicide in 2017, 14 percent, or about 17, were active duty, in dual military marriages.
The prevalence of suicide among military family members is about the same or less than in the civilian population, according to a report from the Defense Department.Getty Images/Stock
It’s the first time data on military family member suicides has ever been released by the Defense Department. This report includes one year of data: 2017, so there’s no basis of comparison for trends within the community.
Data from 2017 is also the most recent available, because the information is partly dependent on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The overall suicide rate among family members was 6.8 per 100,000 population in 2017, which is less than half the rate in the U.S. general population of 14.5 per 100,000. This measurement is the standard comparison used by the government for suicide rates in populations.
The overall military spouse rate of suicide was 11.5 per 100,000; the rate for dependents was 3.8 per 100,000. Adjusting for age and gender, the rates were comparable to or lower than those in the general population, officials said.
According to the report:
There were 186 reported suicide deaths in 2017, including 123 spouses and 63 dependents. The dependents ranged in age from 12 to 23; and almost half of the dependents who died were 18 years or older. Two-thirds of the spouses who died by suicide were female, and 82 percent were under age 40.
Ages 18 to 60 were used in the rate comparison for spouses. When examined by age, officials said, the suicide rates for female military spouses was 9.1 and for male spouses, 29.4 per 100,000 population. For females and males in the general population, the rates were 8.4 and 28.4 per 100,000 population, respectively.
For active duty spouses, the rate is higher: 13.2 per 100,000.
Firearms were used in more than half of the suicide deaths of military spouses and dependents. For female spouses, that trend departs from suicides of females of similar age in the U.S. general population, where poisoning or drug overdose were as prevalent as firearms.
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