Associations of Lifetime Traumatic Brain Injury Characteristics With Prospective Suicide Attempt Among Deployed US Army Soldiers

Objective: To estimate associations of lifetime traumatic brain injury (TBI) characteristics with prospective suicide attempt among US Army soldiers.

Method: The Army STARRS (Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers) Pre/Post Deployment Study surveyed 3 Brigade Combat Teams that were deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Lifetime TBI and past-month postconcussive/post-TBI symptoms were evaluated at predeployment baseline. Recency and number of TBIs were quantified, and TBI severity was classified on the basis of reports of alteration/loss of consciousness and memory lapse. Suicide attempt data came from administrative records and surveys administered after return from deployment. Logistic regression models estimated associations of TBI characteristics with prospective suicide attempt among baseline respondents who were deployed (n = 7677), adjusting for other risk factors including lifetime mental disorder.

Results: One hundred three soldiers made a suicide attempt over a median follow-up period of 30 months (weighted prevalence = 1.31% [0.14%]). In the final model estimating joint associations of TBI severity/recency and past-month postconcussive/post-TBI symptoms, only postconcussive/post-TBI symptoms were associated with a higher risk of suicide attempt (per standard score increase: AOR [adjusted odds ratio] = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.05-1.63; P = .012).

Conclusions: Among the lifetime TBI characteristics evaluated at predeployment baseline, only past-month postconcussive/post-TBI symptoms were prospectively associated with an increased risk of suicide attempt following deployment. Detection of postconcussive/post-TBI symptoms could facilitate targeting of Army suicide prevention programs.