by Kristin Roberts
Last Updated: 2007-08-16 16:07:44 -0400 (Reuters Health)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of suicides in the U.S. Army rose last year to the highest level since the Gulf War, with almost a third in war zones, according to data released by the military on Thursday.
The Army reported 99 confirmed suicides in 2006, up from 87 in 2005. The Army also listed two additional deaths last year as suspected suicides that have not yet been confirmed by the military’s medical examiner.
The Army said failed relationships, legal and financial issues, and "occupational/operational issues" led to the suicides.
Viewed in the context of the total population of U.S. soldiers, the Army recorded 17.3 suicides per 100,000 soldiers in 2006, including the two deaths still pending confirmation. That is up from 12.8 suicides per 100,000 soldiers in 2005.
Last year, 30 of the 99 confirmed suicides occurred in war zones, according to the data.
So far this year, 44 soldiers have committed suicide, including 17 in either Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army said.
The number of suicides in 2006 marked the highest level since 1991, the time of the Gulf War, when the Army recorded 102 soldier suicides.
More than 1.5 million U.S. troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. The Army, the largest branch of the U.S. military, has been particularly stressed by multiple and extended deployments.
The suicide data follows a string of studies showing an increase in mental health problems among soldiers and other U.S. troops. According to those studies, including a Pentagon assessment, the military has not provided adequate mental health resources to its service members.
According to the latest available data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide ranked 11th among the top 15 causes of death in the United States in 2004. The CDC said 1.4 percent of all deaths were a result of suicide.