Study: Rates of many mental disorders much higher in soldiers than in civilians

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(CNN) – The largest study of mental-health risk ever conducted among the U.S. military has found that many soldiers suffer from some form of mental illness, and rates of many of these disorders are much higher in soldiers than in civilians.

The study's findings, related to suicide attempts and deaths, were released in a series of three reports published in this week's edition of JAMA Psychiatry.

Authors noted the differences in disorder rates to be significant.

Ronald Kessler, a professor at Harvard Medical School and senior author of one of the studies was quoted in a Harvard press release saying, “The rate of major depression is five times as high among soldiers as civilians, intermittent explosive disorder six times as high, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nearly 15 times as high.”

Kessler's study also found almost 25% of active-duty, non-deployed Army soldiers surveyed tested positive for a mental disorder of some kind, and 11% within that subgroup also tested positive for more than one illness.

Much of the data used in the reports was taken from the Army's STARRS (Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers) survey of almost 5,500 soldiers. The project was collaboration between the U.S. Army and the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. The survey looked at disorders that included clinical depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder and PTSD. Authors also noted that alcohol and drug use were common.

When it came to suicidal thoughts, one study found about 14% of soldiers had thought about taking their lives, while 5.3% had planned a suicide and 2.4% had actually made one or more attempts.

Overall, the three papers painted a disturbing picture of the military and mental illnesses. Although the causes for the rise in Army suicides still remain unknown the authors hoped their data might be useful to the military to help develop outreach programs for new soldiers as well as those who are already in the service.

“These studies provide knowledge on suicide risk and potentially protective factors in a military population that can also help us better understand how to prevent suicide in the public at large,” said National Institute of Mental Health Director Dr. Thomas R. Insel.

TM & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • Nuclear Mike

    Continued high levels of stress destroy the physical body and with an volunteer military there is no end to the professional career needs of the MIC in consuming the “volunteers”.

    Remember these are ALL volunteers now and they choose this as their profession, NOT DRAFTED, so “man-up or woman-up” to the what you have volunteered for!

    And remember, the MIC is now giving you 15 years max of your career time before allowing you to NOT achieve your retirement goal with the military now and “boot you out of the military” before retirement age.

    Bring back the DRAFT which will solve many problems with the military-MIC from the inside.

  • Wake Up

    Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a bill that would add $21 billion additional funds for veterans medical, educational, and job-training. Much of the new money would be targeted towards mental health care. The Senate Budget Committee Chair (Jeff Sessions) went on record not supporting the additional funding. It failed the senate in an almost party line vote. All but two Republicans (Moran form Kansas and Heller from Nevada) voted against the additional VA money. The additional funding is not new debt, it would come from money already budgeted but saved when we withdraw from Afghanistan.

    More proof about who really supports the military and NASA budgets.

  • Skillpot

    Okay, WHNT, take it back to CNN, and find out, and tell us the why, and what the difference between those veterans coming out of combat in WW2, Korea, NAM, Iraq, and Afgan!

  • Sue

    I can see why soldiers have so much more stress and mental disorders. The young men who used to be drafted had no choice. Today it is a choice but maybe they just do not realize exactly what they could be facing!

  • jamison jones

    sue, well said. Thhey also get all kinds of benefits. I mean, virtually everything outside of their checks is ‘free’..housing, medical, they eat free everywhere, drive just about the nicest cars off car lots…hey, if you can’t take it, don’t enlist.

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