Veteran exposure to suicide: Prevalence and correlates

Julie Cerel, Judy G. Van De Venne, Melinda M. Moore, Myfanwy J. Maple, Chris Flaherty, Margaret M. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background The aim of this study was to determine rates and consequences of suicide exposure in a veteran population and variables related to psychiatric morbidity. Methods 931 veterans from a random digit dial survey conducted July 2012-June 2013 in the Commonwealth of Kentucky was utilized to examine associations between suicide exposure and depression and anxiety. For those with lifetime suicide exposure, perceptions of closeness to the decedent and additional traumatic death exposure were also examined. Results Almost half of veterans (47.1%, n=434) reported lifetime exposure to suicide. Suicide-exposed individuals were almost twice as likely to have diagnosable depression (OR=1.92, CI=1.31-2.8) and more than twice as likely to have diagnosable anxiety (OR=2.37, CI=1.55-3.61). Suicide-exposed were also more likely than non-exposed to report suicide ideation (9.9% vs. 4.3%). Perceived closeness to decedent increased the odds of depression (OR=1.38, CI=1.12-1.69), anxiety (OR=1.51, CI=1.21-1.89) and PTSD (OR=1.65, CI=1.27-2.16) and more than doubled the odds of Prolonged Grief (OR=2.47, CI=1.60-3.83). A model examined time sequence of suicide and traumatic death exposure. Experiencing a suicide exposure first and subsequent traumatic death exposure in their military career almost quadrupled the odds of suicide ideation (OR=3.56, p=.01, CI=1.34-9.46). Limitations Major study limitations include use of only one US state and random digit dial response rate. Conclusions Suicide exposure confers psychiatric risks in veterans. Perceptions of closeness to decedents, which may extend beyond familial lines, may heighten these risks in the suicide exposed. Multiple exposures to suicide and traumatic death may lead to significant suicide risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-87
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Exposure
  • Suicide
  • Veteran

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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