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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Group identity, difficult adjustment to civilian life, and suicidal ideation in Canadian Armed Forces Veterans: Life After Service Studies 2016

September, 2019
Article:

This paper explores suicide risk in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veterans.

Abstract

Introduction: Suicide risk is higher in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veterans than the Canadian general population (CGP). Suicidality is understood to be caused by incompletely clarified, complex interacting combinations of multiple factors. One of the precipitating factors for suicide is thought to be the social identity challenges known to occur in major life transitions. Methods: The 2016 Life After Service Studies survey representatively sampled Regular Force Veterans stratified by two release groups: earlier in 1998 to August 2012 (n = 1,575) and more recently in September 2012 to 2015 (n = 1,180). The linked dataset included socioeconomic and military characteristics and well-being indicators in multiple domains. Weak group identity was indicated by weak sense of local community belonging and/or not feeling part of a group with shared attitudes and beliefs. Associations were evaluated with multiple logistic regression. Results: Suicidal ideation, weak community belonging, and perceived difficult adjustment to civilian life were more prevalent in Veterans soon after release (September 2012 to 2015) than in Veterans released earlier (1998 to August 2012). Suicidal ideation and weak community belonging were more prevalent in the Veterans than in the CGP. In the more recently released Veterans, weak group identity was endorsed by the majority with suicidal ideation (93.3%). In adjusted regression models, mental health problems had the strongest association with suicidal ideation (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 13.4–79.3); however, weak group identity was moderately strongly associated with both difficult adjustment (AOR = 2.4–4.1) and particularly suicidal ideation (AOR = 3.8–9.0), independently of mental health problems. Discussion: Weak group identity was associated with difficult adjustment to civilian life and suicidal ideation in CAF Regular Force Veterans within 3.6 years after military release. These findings indicate the importance in suicide prevention of attending to social identity during transition to post-military life.

Full Reference

Thompson, J. M., Dursun, S., VanTil, L., Heber, A., Kitchen, P., de Boer, C., Black, T., Montelpare, B., Coady, T., Sweet, J. and Pedlar, D., 2019. Group identity, difficult adjustment to civilian life, and suicidal ideation in Canadian Armed Forces Veterans: Life After Service Studies 2016. JMVFH, 5(2). doi: 10.3138/jmvfh.2018-0038.

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