This report is part of a project on post-9/11 veterans in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting is pleased to provide a series of these stories, many of which have ties to Arizona, for our readers.
“Back Home: The Challenges Facing Post-9/11 Veterans Returning from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” was produced by News21, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
By Jeff Hargarten, Forrest Burnson, Bonnie Campo and Chase Cook, News21
Veterans are killing themselves at more than double the rate of the civilian population with about 49,000 taking their own lives between 2005 and 2011, according to data collected over eight months by News21.
Records from 48 states show the annual suicide rate among veterans is about 30 for every 100,000 of the population, compared to a civilian rate of about 14 per 100,000. The suicide rate among veterans increased an average 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011, or more than double that of the 1.1 percent civilian rate, according to News21’s analysis of states’ mortality data.
Nearly one in every five suicides nationally is a veteran — 18 to 20 percent annually — compared with Census data that shows veterans make up about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population.
Veterans are over-represented among suicides compared to the general population, a trend seen in most states between 2005 and 2011.
- Average suicide rate for veterans (2005-2011) was 42.6 deaths per 100,000.
- Average suicide rate for civilians (2005-2011) was 19.2 deaths per 100,000.
- The suicide rate growth for veterans over this period was 1.44 percent.
- Veteran suicides represent 22.6 percent of all Arizonan suicides over this period.
For example, in Alaska, veterans were about 14 percent of the population, but represented about 21 percent of all suicides in 2010. The same year in Washington, Census data showed veterans were about 11 percent of the population, but state vital statistics showed they represented about 23 percent of suicides.
Suicide rates within the veteran population often were double and sometimes triple the civilian suicide rate in several states. Arizona’s 2011 veteran suicide rate was 43.9 per 100,000 people, nearly tripling the civilian suicide rate of 14.4, according to the latest numbers from the state health department.
Among states with the widest disparities and highest rates, Idaho had an average annual veteran suicide rate of 49.5 per 100,000 people, according to News21 analysis, compared to a civilian rate of 20 per 100,000. Montana had an average annual veteran suicide rate of 55.9 per 100,000 people and a 23.9 civilian rate.
New Jersey had among the lowest annual veteran suicide rates across the time period, with 17.2 dying by suicide per 100,000 people and a civilian rate of 8.6 Connecticut had a veteran suicide rate of 20.11 per 100,000 people and a civilian rate of 11.
Massachusetts had the smallest disparity and one of the lowest rates, according to the data, with an average annual veteran suicide rate of 12.3 and a civilian rate of 10.3.