Gender Differences in Suicide and Self-Directed Violence Risk Among Veterans With Post-traumatic Stress and Substance Use Disorders
Ronzitti S, Loree AM, Potenza MN, Decker SE, Wilson SM, Abel EA, Haskell SG, Brandt CA, and Goulet JL. Gender Differences in Suicide and Self-Directed Violence Risk Among Veterans With Post-traumatic Stress and Substance Use Disorders. Womens Health Issues 2019; 29 Suppl 1:S94-s102.
Women's health issues
BACKGROUND: Veterans have a high prevalence of both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUDs), which are related to suicide risk. Exploring gender-related differences in suicidal behavior risk among this subgroup of veterans is important to improve prevention and treatment strategies. To date, few studies have explored these differences.
METHODS: The sample included 352,476 men and women veterans from the Women Veterans Cohort Study with a diagnosis of PTSD. First, we conducted analyses to assess gender-related differences in sociodemographic and clinical variables at baseline, as well as by suicidal behavior. Then, we conducted a series of Cox proportional hazards regression models to estimate the hazard ratios of engaging in self-directed violence (SDV) and dying by suicide by SUD status and gender, controlling for potential confounders.
RESULTS: Adjusted analyses showed that, among veterans with PTSD, the presence of a SUD significantly increased the risk of SDV and death by suicide. Women with PTSD had a decreased risk of dying by suicide compared with men. No gender-related difference was observed for SDV. SUD increased the risk of SDV behavior in both women and men but increased the risk of dying by suicide only among men.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings revealed gender-related differences in SDV and suicide among veterans with a PTSD diagnosis with or without a SUD. Our study, along with the increasing numbers of women serving in the military, stresses the need to conduct gender-based analyses to help improve prevention and treatment strategies.