Veteran suicide rate may be much higher than federal estimates, study suggests

Up to 44 veterans may be dying every day from suicide or self-injury.

Updated: September 20, 2022 - 3:37pm

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The Department of Veterans Affairs may be undercounting the number of former service members who die from suicide and self-injury, according to a new study from the veterans' group America's Warrior Partnership. 

About two dozen former service members die by suicide daily, researchers found after studying veterans in eight states over five years. Data released this month by the federal government shows that in 2020, the average number of veteran suicides per day was 16.8. This means the real veteran suicide numbers may be more than 1.4 times greater than reported.

The study, in partnership with Duke University and the University of Alabama, found that 20 former service members die every day from self-injury, more than 80% of which are categorized as overdoses. The government lists these veteran deaths as accidental or undetermined. 

If the eight states in the study accurately reflect the entire country, then at least 44 veterans die every day from self-injury or suicide, putting the total at a significantly higher number than the federal veteran suicide count.

Veterans who serve longer are less likely to die from suicide, and those who served for less than three years or were demoted during their service were at a greater risk, the study found. Suicide/self-injury risk also decreased by 40% when a veteran was living with a partner.