Per the Washington Post:
“There is a perception that we have a veterans’ suicide epidemic on our hands. I don’t think that is true,” said Robert Bossarte, an epidemiologist with the VA who did the study. “The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it.” The number of suicides overall in the United States increased by nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the study says.
As a result, the percentage of veterans who die by suicide has decreased slightly since 1999, even though the total number of veterans who kill themselves has gone up, the study says.
Whoever the victims are, this increase is horrendous. But the breakdown does challenge the popular idea that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are responsible for a spike in suicides. In June of last year, the New York Times reported that:
Suicide rates of military personnel and combat veterans have risen sharply since 2005, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intensified. Recently, the Pentagon established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office.
The Veterans Administration disagrees:
The VA study indicates that more than two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are 50 or older, suggesting that the increase in veterans’ suicides is not primarily driven by those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The suicide rate is rising in general and, among veterans and active-duty personnel, it is older veterans who are paying the highest price. USA Today recorded that “researchers found that the average age of a veteran who commits suicide is about 60. Analysts concluded that Vietnam and female veterans need particular focus.” The Huffington Post concurred: “While much attention has been paid to suicides by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the report indicates the problem is worse among older veterans.”
Still, some good news from the Associated Press:
VA researchers say the trend suggests that efforts to reduce suicide among veterans may be having an effect.