Year: 2023 Source: BMJ Military Health. doi:10.1136/ military-2023-002413 SIEC No: 20231593
Introduction: Research into the factors resulting in suicide in the military veteran population has yet to reach a consensus. Available research is concentrated on a small number of countries, and there is a lack of consistency with contradictory conclusions. The USA has produced a significant amount of research in a country where suicide is identified as a national health crisis, but in the UK, there is little research regarding veterans from the British Armed Forces. Methods: This systematic review was conducted according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Corresponding literature searches were conducted in PsychINFO, MEDLINE and CINAHL. Articles that discussed suicide, suicidal ideation, prevalence or risk factors among British Armed Forces veterans were eligible for review. A total of 10 articles met the inclusion criteria and were analysed. Results: Veterans' suicide rates were found to be comparable to those of the general UK population. The method of suicide used was most commonly found to be hanging and strangulation. Firearms was recorded in 2% of suicide cases. Demographic risk factors were often contradictory with some research stating that there was risk in older veterans and some in younger. However, female veterans were found to be at higher risk than female civilians. Those who had deployed on combat operations were at lower risk of suicide, with research finding that veterans who took longer to seek help for mental health (MH) difficulties reported more suicidal ideation. Conclusions: Peer-reviewed research publications have revealed that UK veteran suicide prevalence is broadly comparable to the general population while highlighting differences across international armed forces. Veteran demographics, service history, transition and MH have all been identified as potential risk factors of suicide and suicidal ideation. Research has also indicated that female veterans are at higher risk than that of their civilian counterparts due to veterans being predominantly male; this could skew results and requires investigation. Current research is limited and further exploration of suicide prevalence and risk factors in the UK veteran population is required.