While controversy over the Iraq war continues to rage, many of us are concerned about what’s happening to our soldiers over there. It turns out that having served in the military makes a person twice as likely to commit suicide.

When researchers followed up 320,000 men aged over 18 years for 12 years and found that those who had served in the armed forces at some time between 1917 and 1994 were twice as likely to die from suicide compared with men in the general population. In light of this new knowledge, psychologists are stressing that doctors need to look out for signs of suicidal intentions in soldiers returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The risk was highest in veterans who could not participate fully in home, work or leisure activities because of a health problem. Veterans that killed themselves were also more likely to be older, white, better educated and less likely to have never been married than other suicides. Interestingly, former soldiers who were overweight were far less likely to kill themselves than those of normal weight.

However, a tour of duty in the military did not increase the risk of dying from natural or accidental causes, or of being a homicide victim.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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