Objective: We tested the aspects of social support, unit cohesion, and religiosity hypothesized to be protective factors for suicide among U.S. service members.
Methods: This case–control study compared U.S. Army soldiers who died by suicide while on active duty (n = 135) to controls of two types: those propensity scorematched on known sociodemographic risk factors (n = 128); and those controls who
had thought about, but not died by, suicide in the past year (n = 108). Data included
structured interviews of next of kin (NOK) and Army supervisors (SUP) for each case
and control soldier. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine predictors of
Results: Perceived social closeness and seeking help from others were associated
with decreased odds of suicide, as reported by SUP (OR = 0.2 [95% CI = 0.1, 0.5])
and NOK (OR = 0.4 [95% CI = 0.2, 0.8]). Novel reports by SUP informants of high
levels of unit cohesion/morale decreased odds of suicide (OR = 0.1 [95% CI = 0.0,
0.2]). Contrary to study hypotheses, no religious affiliation was associated with lower
odds of suicide (OR = 0.3 [95% CI = 0.2, 0.6]).
Conclusions: Perceived social closeness and unit/group cohesion are associated with
lower odds of suicide. These results point toward social intervention strategies as testable components of suicide prevention programs