Suicide mortality-among individuals receiving treatment for depression in the veterans affairs health system: Associations with patient and treatment setting characteristics

Objectives. We sought to report clinical and demographic factors associated with suicide among depressed veterans in an attempt to determine what characteristics identified depressed veterans at high risk for suicide. Methods. We used longitudinal, nationally representative data (1999-2004) to determine suicide rates among depressed veterans, estimating time until suicide using Cox proportional hazards regression models. Results. Of 807 694 veterans meeting study criteria, 1683 (0.21%) committed suicide during follow-up. Increased suicide risks were observed among male, younger, and non-Hispanic White patients. Veterans without service-connected disabilities, with inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations in the year prior to their qualifying depression diagnosis, with comorbid substance use, and living in the southern or western United States were also at higher risk. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with comorbid depression was associated with lower suicide rates, and younger depressed veterans with PTSD had a higher suicide rate than did older depressed veterans with PTSD. Conclusions. Unlike the general population, older and younger veterans are more prone to suicide than are middle-aged veterans. Future research should examine the relationship between depression, PTSD, health service use, and suicide risks among veterans.