Study: Rates of Suicide Five Times Hire for Young Veterans in Oregon

CBS Evening News

January 25, 2008 – A report out of the state of Oregon reinforces the results of a CBS News investigation from last November that found high rates of suicides among those who served in the military.

The state health report, “Violent Deaths in Oregon: 2005” found 18 to 24-year-old male veterans had the highest rate of suicide than any other demographic in the state from 2000 to 2005 – almost 5 times higher than non-veteran males the same age.

“We were shocked [by the results],” Lisa Millet, Project Manager for Oregon’s Violent Death Reporting System which conducted the study, told CBS News. View the new report here:

Data for the report was collected from local medical examiners, police reports and death certificates. In 2005, veterans accounted for 28 percent of all suicides in Oregon. The majority of the veteran suicides (97 percent) were committed by males. And overall, in the years 2000 to 2005, male veterans died of self-inflicted wounds in Oregon at more than double the rate of male non-veterans.

Here are the rates of suicide per 100,000 males (statistically adjusted for age) from the report:

2000-2005 Oregon Male Rates of Suicide
Veterans = 46.05 per 100,000
Non-Veterans = 22.09 per 100,000

Millet says when Oregon state researchers broken down the veteran suicide data (from the years 2000 to 2005) by age, three groups had “significantly” higher rates. She provided CBS News those rates:

(Note: Millet says the following rates of suicide are statistically adjusted for age and by year to weed out any random factors so the comparison between veterans and non-veterans is an “oranges to oranges” match.)

Oregon Males Ages: 18-24
Veterans = 134 per 100,000
Non-Veterans = 27 per 100,000

Oregon Males Ages: 35-44
Veterans = 47 per 100,000
Non-Veterans = 26 per 100,000

Oregon Males Ages: 45-54
Veterans = 48 per 100,000
Non-Veterans = 28 per 100,000

“These statistics are deeply troubling,” says Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the advocate group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “This study should serve as a wake up call for Oregon’s governor, lawmakers and all of our nation’s leaders.”

The Oregon findings are consistent with what Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reported two-months ago in an exclusive investigation. After collecting death record data from states across the country, CBS News discovered that the (adjusted) rate of suicide for veterans nationwide is more than twice that of non-veterans. And, like the state of Oregon, CBS also found that the veterans most at risk for suicide nationwide are those aged 20 through 24.

Researchers with Oregon’s Violent Death Reporting System are now digging deeper into the issue of veteran suicides as a result of their recent findings. According to Millet, they plan to team up with the Oregon National Guard and the Portland Department of Veterans Affairs to gain more information about the individuals who died of suicide. Millet says “we need to see what can be done to reduce the problem.”

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