Research conducted by the Veterans Affairs Department for an 11-year period showed “staggering” rates of suicide among female military veterans, especially among those aged 18 to 29. According to the Los Angeles Times, suicide expert Dr. Matthew Miller said "We have to come to grips with why the rates are so obscenely high." Specifically, rates were highest among younger veterans, with women in the 18-29 age range being nearly 12 times as likely to commit suicide than non-veterans. Most research on military suicide had been focused on males. Men account for more than 90 percent of the country's 22 million veterans. For every other age group, veteran rates of suicide are between four and eight times higher than nonveterans.
Unlike 34 percent of nonveteran women who commit suicide, female veterans have a 40 percent rate of committing suicide using a firearm, said a Reuters report.
Experts believe there may be a number of reasons that are causing the high suicide rates among women. Among the reasons they cited is that the military may be disproportionately recruiting women at higher suicide risk. Other causes include sexual assault or the trauma of combat. According to the Department of Defense, 10 percent of military women have been raped while in national service.
Americans who join the military, said one expert, appear to be more likely to have experience difficult upbringing, including emotional and sexual abuse.
According to a study released in April 2015 by DoD, suicides among military personnel is more likely after departure from the service than during active duty deployment, especially if their time in service is brief. According to lead researcher Mark Reger, there had been an assumption that continued warfare and a rise in suicides was linked to actual deployments. However, Reger said that based on the total population, deployment is not associated with suicide. Suicides among active duty troops has surged over the last ten years and has almost doubled in the Army and Marine Corps. Traditionally, military personnel have had lower rates of suicide than civilians.
The study looked at military records for more than 3.9 million service members in active duty or reserves in both Afghanistan and Iraq for the period October 7, 2001 to December 31, 2009. Of the total 31,962 deaths, there were 5,041 suicides by the end of that period. The rates of suicide were similar regardless of the deployment status of the troops. The study showed that among the deployed, there were 1,162 suicides, while among those not deployed there were 3,879. However, those leaving the military showed a higher suicide risk: 26.06 after separation as opposed to 15.12 for those still in uniform.
(Ed. note: the above is an updated version)