Prevalence of Childhood Trauma Among U.S. Army Soldiers With Suicidal Behavior

Army Institute of Public Health, 5188 Blackhawk Road, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 2101, USA.
Military medicine (Impact Factor: 0.77). 09/2012; 177(9):1034-40. DOI: 10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00054
Source: PubMed


In 2009, suicide was reported to be the third leading cause of death among U.S. Army personnel. The increase of suicides in the Army indicates the need for additional research to better understand the problem. Research in civilian populations found that experiencing childhood trauma increases the risk for various negative health outcomes, including suicide and suicide attempts, during adulthood. To date, there has been very little focus on pre-existing mental health before joining the service because of a lack of existing data. Participants were active duty Army Soldiers who attempted or completed suicide as identified by the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report. Among Soldiers exhibiting suicidal behavior, analyses were completed to identify significant associations with specific types of childhood trauma experienced before joining the Army. The prevalence of childhood trauma in this population was 43.3% among the suicide cases and 64.7% among the attempt cases. The most common types of childhood trauma among Soldiers were family problems and abuse. The need for further research among military populations is clear given the high prevalence of childhood trauma found among these Soldiers with suicidal behavior and the lack of complete data for this population.

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    ABSTRACT: The present study examined childhood abuse (self-reported early childhood harsh punishment and physical abuse from parents) and its relationship to adult suicidal behavior among Army National Guard soldiers. Analyses of data obtained from routinely administered the Unit Risk Inventory (N = 12,567 soldiers in 180 company-sized units) showed prevalence rates of 16.0% for harsh punishment and 7.8% for physical abuse, generally consistent with those of past studies investigating childhood abuse among civilian and military populations. Soldiers who reported childhood abuse were three to eight times more likely to report suicidal behavior (i.e., thought about suicide, made plans, or had attempted), with the highest likelihood of such behaviors for self-reported physical abuse. Level 2 or unit-level effects were also observed, though the effects were less evident.
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