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Suicide Ideation Rates Reduced Among Veterans During COVID-19

Risk factors for new-onset suicide ideation include low social support, lifetime PTSD and/or depression, worsening of social relationships

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 25, 2021 (HealthDay News) — U.S. military veterans had a reduction in suicide ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with risk factors for new-onset suicide ideation including low social support and worsening of social relationships, according to a study published online Aug. 25 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Brandon Nichter, Ph.D., from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues examined longitudinal changes in suicidal behavior from before the COVID-19 pandemic to nearly 10 months into the pandemic using data from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. The median dates of data collection were Nov. 21, 2019, and Nov. 14, 2020, for the prepandemic and peripandemic assessments. Data were included for 3,078 veterans aged 22 to 99 years.

The researchers found that at the peripandemic assessment, 7.8 percent of veterans reported past-year suicide ideation compared with 10.6 percent prepandemic; 0.3 percent reported suicide attempts. During the follow-up period, 2.6 percent of veterans developed new-onset suicide ideation. The strongest risk factors and COVID-19-related variables for new-onset suicide ideation were low social support, suicide attempt history, lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder and/or depression, past-year alcohol use disorder severity, COVID-19 infection, and worsening of social relationships during the pandemic (odds ratios, 2.77, 6.31, 2.25, 1.06, 2.41, and 1.47, respectively), after adjustment for sociodemographic and military characteristics.

“Contrary to expectations, the prevalence of suicidal behavior did not appear to increase among military veterans nearly 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write. “This study population may benefit from targeted suicide prevention and outreach efforts, particularly those that aim to bolster social support.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical and publishing industries; one author holds multiple patents.

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