The suicide rate for female soldiers triples when they go to war, according to the first round of preliminary data from an Army study. The findings, released to USA TODAY this week, show that the suicide rate rises from five per 100,000 to 15 per 100,000 among female soldiers at war.
Scientists are not sure why but say they will look into whether women feel isolated in a male-dominated war zone or suffer greater anxieties about leaving behind children and other loved ones. Even so, the suicide risk for female soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan is still lower than for men serving next to them, the $50 million study says.
Findings also show that marriage somehow helps inoculate male and female soldiers from killing themselves while they are overseas. Although these death rates among GI's who are single or divorced double when they go to war, the rate among married soldiers does not increase, according to the study.
Scientists say they hope these and other findings will help them tease out protective social patterns — such as, for example, that sense in a marriage of mattering to someone else — that can be encouraged or instilled in all soldiers to lower the risk of suicide.