Soldiers who have not seen combat ‘more likely to take own lives than those who have fought’

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Soldiers who have never seen combat are more likely to kill themselves than those who have fought in combat zones, a study has found.

The University of Manchester study linked data between NHS and military records for more than 458,000 veterans from 1996 to 2018.

It found that of the 328,875 troops who were not deployed on combat operations during that period, 899 died by suicide. The figures showed that 187 troops out of the 129,173 who deployed in the same period took their own lives.

Cathryn Rodway, the lead study author and programme manager at the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety, said: “While public perception and some previous studies suggest combat-related experiences are associated with suicide, our findings paint a slightly different picture.

“We found suicide was no more common than it is in the general population, although risk did appear to be higher in the youngest age groups and those with short lengths of service. Deployment to a conflict actually appeared to reduce suicide risk.”

During this period 1,086 (0.2 per cent) veterans took their own lives, similar to the overall rate in the general population.

The report also found that veterans over 35 were at a lower risk of suicide than the general population, although younger veterans were at an increased risk.

Johnny Mercer, the minister for veterans’ affairs, said that while it was important to note that suicide rates amongst veterans were similar to the general population, “any death is a tragedy and we must help those who need support”.

“I would strongly urge anyone who is struggling to reach out. Help is available through Op COURAGE in England, dedicated NHS services in Scotland and Wales, and the Veterans’ Support Office in Northern Ireland,” added.

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