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Deployment Doesn't Increase Suicide Risk, Military Says

File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott
File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.

The suicide rate among recent veterans is about 50 percent higher than non-veterans with similar demographics. But a study published Wednesday found that deploying to a war zone didn't necessarily increase a service members’ suicide risk.

The U.S. Department of Defense study examined information from databases on nearly 4 million service members who served between 2001 and 2007. It found that of the 5,041 suicides by 2009, the service members who deployed were no more likely to kill themselves than those who had not deployed.

Study author Mark A. Reger at Joint Base Lewis-McChord says researchers found two things that did increase a service member’s suicide risk.

"One was that those who had a short period of military service especially those with less than four years of military service had higher rates of suicide," Reger said.

The other was leaving the military under a dishonorable discharge.

Reger says the study shows how difficult it is for some service members to transition out of military. He hopes the new information helps focus suicide prevention programs.