Suicide rate up among soldiers

The US army said Thursday that at least 99 soldiers committed suicide in 2006, nearly a third while in Iraq or Afghanistan, signaling a rising suicide rate compared to previous years.

The army also recorded 948 serious suicide attempts which required hospitalization or evacuation as well as two deaths with unclear causes still under investigation.

Among soldiers who killed themselves in 2006, 27 were in Iraq and three were in Afghanistan. The army also reported 44 suicides in the first six months of 2007, 17 among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The suicide rate among active service members was 17.3 per 100,000 in 2006, compared to 12.8 in 2005 and 10.8 in 2004. In 2001 the rate was 9.8 per 100,000.

The figures showed a higher rate of suicide than found in the general population of people aged 17-45, which is 13.4 per 100,000.

The army said in its report that it had found no correlation between sending soldiers on missions and suicide rates. The study authors said personal and marital relationship problems, which are often aggravated by soldiers’ absences, remained the primary motivation for the suicides.