RAND Report Examines Ways to Compare the U.S. Army's Suicide Rate with the General U.S. Population
Mar 13, 2020
To what degree is the suicide trend in the U.S. Army unique to that service, relative to what is observed in the general U.S. population? Researchers investigate how accounting for additional population risk factors beyond age and gender (race/ethnicity, time, marital status, and educational attainment) affects suicide rate differences between soldiers and a comparable subset of the general U.S. population.
Identifying Suitable Characteristics, Data Sources, and Analytic Approaches
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Over the past 15 years, the suicide rate among members of the U.S. armed forces has doubled, with the greatest increase observed among soldiers in the Army. This increasing rate is paralleled by a smaller increase in the general U.S. population, observed across both genders, in virtually every age group and in nearly every state. An empirical question exists: What is the extent or degree to which the suicide trend in the Army is unique to that service, relative to what is observed in the general U.S. population?
The Army has typically attempted to address this question by standardizing the general population to look like the Army on demographic characteristics. However, given the rise in suicide rates over the past decade, the Army wanted to better understand whether standardization based solely on age and gender is enough. Expanding the characteristics on which the general population is standardized to match the Army could be useful to gain a better understanding of the suicide trends in the Army. However, such a change also brings with it some challenges, including the lack of readily available data in the general U.S. population. In addition, even an expanded set of characteristics still results in having a large number of unmeasured factors that cannot be included in this type of analysis.
In this report, the authors explore how accounting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, time, marital status, and educational attainment affects suicide rate differences between soldiers and a comparable subset of the general U.S. population.
Suicide Risk and Protective Factors
Army Risk Factors
General Population Risk Factors
Matching the Army to a Comparable Subset of General U.S. Population
Industry and Occupation Coding in the NVDRS
Suicide Modeling Methods
Candidate Data Sources on General Population Suicides
Analyses for Location and Deployment History
2015 Army Analysis
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.
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