Background: The U.S. Army suicide attempt rate increased sharply during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Risk may vary according to occupation, which significantly influences the stressors that soldiers experience. Methods: Using administrative data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS), we identified person-month records for all active duty Regular Army enlisted soldiers who had a medically documented suicide attempt from 2004 through 2009 (n = 9650) and an equal-probability sample of control person-months (n = 153,528). Logistic regression analyses examined the association of combat occupation (combat arms [CA], special forces [SF], combat medic [CM]) with suicide attempt, adjusting for socio-demographics, service-related characteristics, and prior mental health diagnosis. Results: In adjusted models, the odds of attempting suicide were higher in CA (OR = 1.2 [95% CI: 1.1-1.2]) and CM (OR = 1.4 [95% CI: 1.3-1.5]), but lower in SF (OR = 0.3 [95% CI: 0.2-0.5]) compared to all other occupations. CA and CM had higher odds of suicide attempt than other occupations if never deployed (ORs = 1.1-1.5) or previously deployed (ORs = 1.2-1.3), but not when currently deployed. Occupation was associated with suicide attempt in the first ten years of service, but not beyond. In the first year of service, primarily a time of training, CM had higher odds of suicide attempt than both CA (OR = 1.4 [95% CI: 1.2-1.6]) and other occupations (OR = 1.5 [95% CI: 1.3-1.7]). Discrete-time hazard functions revealed that these occupations had distinct patterns of monthly risk during the first year of service. Conclusions: Military occupation can inform the understanding suicide attempt risk among soldiers.
- Suicide attempt