The most extensive study yet by the US government on suicide
among military veterans shows more veterans are killing
themselves than previously thought, with 22 deaths a day - or
one every 65 minutes, on average.
The study released by the Department of Veterans Affairs
covered suicides from 1999 to 2010 and compared with a
previous, less precise VA estimate that there were roughly 18
veteran deaths a day in the United States.
More than 69 percent of veteran suicides were among
individuals aged 50 years or older, the VA reported.
"This data provides a fuller, more accurate, and sadly, an
even more alarming picture of veteran suicide rates," said
Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, who has
championed legislation to strengthen mental health care for
The news came two weeks after the US military acknowledged
that suicides hit a record in 2012, outpacing combat deaths,
with 349 active-duty suicides - almost one a day.
That was despite sharper focus at the leadership level at the
Pentagon and VA on the suicide problem, and came during an
overall rise in suicides in the United States. The number of
suicides in the United States rose 11 percent from 2007 to
2010, the VA said.
The VA did not provide raw data and acknowledged its national
figures were still estimates. The new study was based on data
collected from 21 states in which military status is reported
on the death certificate. It said more data from more states
were being processed.
Reuters last year obtained less-detailed data for the
2005-to-2010 period from 32 states, also showing a
significant rise in the number of suicides among the
country's 23 million veterans.
The VA said that while the number of veteran suicides had
risen, the percentage of all suicides in America identified
as "veteran" declined from 1999 to 2003 and had remained
relatively constant in recent years.
The VA said the data would help it better identify where
at-risk veterans may be located and improve targeting of
specific suicide intervention and outreach activities.
"We have more work to do and we will use this data to
continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts,"
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement.