The suicide rate among US military veterans has increased by more than 30 percent since 2001, a larger rise than in the wider population of the United States, according to a new government study.
The study, released Wednesday by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, found that between 2001 and 2014, veteran suicides increased by 32 percent, while civilian suicides increased by 23 percent in the same time period.
The report estimated that an average of 20 veterans a day died from suicide in 2014, or about 7,300 throughout the whole year. There is an estimated 21.6 million veterans currently in the United States.
The study found that veterans faced a 21 percent greater risk for suicide than those who had not served in the military or fought in a war.
Male veterans faced an 18 percent higher risk for suicide than their civilian counterparts in 2014. By contrast, the risk of suicide among female veterans was 2.4 times higher than among civilian women in the same year.
The report said that it used data from 55 million veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014 and from all 50 US states.
Previous research on veteran suicides was more limited in scale and used three million veterans’ records from 20 states or from records of those using veterans health services.
Among active-duty and reserve personnel in the US military, nearly 500 killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the US armed force for at least seven years.
The number of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase after the so-called war on terror, more than doubling to 321 in 2012, the worst year in recent history for soldiers killing themselves.
America’s perpetual engagement in overseas wars and the lack of adequate care for veterans returning home are frequently cited as the main reasons behind such alarming suicide figures.
US troops have been at war since 2001 in Afghanistan, and fought in the Iraq war from 2003 to 2011.