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Younger Veterans at Greater Suicide Risk
Date:10/30/2007

Study also found that post-traumatic stress disorder had a 'protective' effect

TUESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A study of U.S. veterans suffering from depression finds that their risk factors for suicide differ in surprising ways from those of other depressed Americans.

Specifically, the risk for suicide appears highest among younger veterans -- the reverse of what's seen in the general population.

And even though post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be deeply mentally distressing, veterans suffering with the disorder were actually less prone to suicide than those not afflicted by the condition.

The reasons for that remain unclear, the study authors said.

"It's possible that people with PTSD may be receiving additional services, they may have a greater connection to the VA health system -- more psychotherapy visits, for example," said lead researcher Kara Zivin, a Veterans Administration investigator and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Her team published its findings Tuesday in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Military service comes with special challenges, and the 1999 Veterans Health Study found that nearly a third -- 31 percent -- of veterans were suffering depressive symptoms, a rate that's two to five times higher than observed in the general public.

Now, as a new generation of soldiers returns from Iraq and Afghanistan, Zivin's team sought to better understand the risks depressed veterans face for suicide. To do so, they pored through data from the VA's National Registry for Depression for the years 1999 to 2004.

Overall, the researchers looked at information on almost 808,000 veterans diagnosed with depressive symptoms; 1,683 (0.21 percent) of those veterans took their own lives.

The researchers compared the characteristics of the depressed veterans wh
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