Suicide after leaving the UK Armed Forces 1996-2018: a cohort study

by | Aug 14, 2023 | Research summaries, Veterans | 0 comments

Rodway et al, 2023

There are comparatively few international studies investigating suicide in military veterans and no recent UK-wide studies. This was a 23-year retrospective cohort study of suicide in a cohort of over 458,000 individuals who had left the UK Armed Forces between 1996 and 2018. It includes over 200,000 additional veterans and an additional 13-years of data compared to our previous study of suicide in UK veterans, published in 2009 (Kapur et al, 2009).

Most veterans were male (91%) and had a median age of 26 years at discharge. 1.086 (0.2%) died by suicide. We found the overall rate of suicide in veterans was slightly lower than the general population, but suicide risk was 2 to 3 times higher in male and female veterans aged under 25 years than the same age group in the general population. Male veterans aged 35 years and older were at reduced risk of suicide. Factors associated with higher risk of suicide in veterans included being male, serving in the Army, a length of service under 10 years, being discharged between the ages of 16 and 34 years and being untrained on discharge. Deployment was associated with lower risk. A quarter of veterans who died by suicide had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died.

Suicide risk in personnel leaving the UK Armed Forces is not high but there are important differences according to age, with higher risk in young men and women. Improving and maintaining access to mental health care and social supports for young service leavers is important for suicide prevention, as well as implementing general suicide prevention measures for all veterans regardless of age.

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