Suicide rates are on the rise for middle-aged white males, a development that may contribute to the high suicide rate found among American veterans, according to recent reports.
According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suicide rates have been on the rise for middle-aged white, non-Hispanic men and women aged 45 to 54. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that men commit suicide at four times the rate of women and represent 77.9 percent of all suicides.
According to a 2012 report from the VA, veteran suicides represented 22.2 percent of all suicides.
The report suggested that high suicide rates among middle-aged males in general may contribute to a higher rate for veterans.
“According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), approximately 79 percent of all suicides among adults aged 18 years and older were male and approximately 44 percent of all male suicides were among those aged 50 years of age and older,” the report said.
“It is therefore possible that epidemiologic characteristic of suicide in the general population (i.e. higher rates of suicide among older adult males) may contribute to a comparatively high prevalence of Veterans among those who die from suicide,” it continued.
Tim Worstall, a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, said that the veteran suicide rate is not out of line with demographics.
“There’s a definite age and gender bias to suicide and the veteran’s rate just doesn’t look out of line with the demographics,” Worstall said. “It’s obviously true that each and every suicide is a tragedy but a concentration on veterans seems unwarranted when the rate isn’t that different from that of non-veterans.”
“The actual suicide rate in the U.S. military seems to be around and about that for the U.S. as a whole,” Worstall wrote in 2013. “Soldiers and ex-soldiers don’t kill themselves in any greater numbers than the average American does.”
A spokesman for the VA did not say directly whether the agency believed that the demographic information discussed in the National Academy of Sciences report contributed to the high veteran suicide rate.
The spokesman pointed to a report that found that there were increases in suicide rates for those 35 to 64 from 1999 to 2010.
“Understanding trends in suicide in veterans requires comparisons with trends in other Americans,” the spokesman said. “The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] has reported that there were substantial increases in suicide rates in Americans aged 35-64 during the period from 1999-2000.”
“Trends in age-adjusted rates for male [Veterans Health Administration] VHA users differ substantially from trends in other American males,” the spokesman said. “In the U.S. as a whole, there was a 27.3 percent increase; in VHA users, there was a 16.1 percent decrease.”
Randi Law, a representative from Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the group was unable to comment on the veteran suicide rate.
“While there may be some validity to that argument we are not in a position to speculate, and we do not have a true expert on the subject with which you can speak,” she said.
The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Concerned Veterans for America were contacted, but did not respond.