As suicide rates among soldiers climbed to new highs four years ago, researchers prepared surveys for the largest study to date of mental health risk within the military.
The study’s new findings, published as three papers in JAMA Psychiatry, show that soldiers who join the military come in with much higher rates of mental illness than the general public and that most suicides can be traced to these pre-enlistment conditions.
Researchers organized 327 meetings at Army installations across the country in 2011. A total of 5,428 soldiers — some in large auditoriums, some in small field offices — filled out questionnaires that they knew would be matched to their administrative records.
Almost 85 percent reported a mental health problem that began before they entered the military — with particularly high rates of impulsive behavior, trouble controlling anger and substance abuse.
Lead author Ronald Kessler, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said many men and women reported developing new conditions while in the service. The soldiers’ anxiety, depression and PTSD were layered onto their existing problems. Continue reading