Executive BriefForewordIntroductionDesignKey FindingsOverviewMental HealthPhysical HealthHigh Health StatusAccess to Health Care and Preventive ServicesSubstance UseSeniorsConclusionsAppendixTable 1. MeasuresMethodology2022 Health of Those Who Have Served Advisory Committee
Mental health challenges are increasing more rapidly in those who have served.
Rates of suicidal thoughts, depression, frequent mental distress and mental illness have increased more rapidly for those who have served than in civilians since the baseline period of 2011-2012. While this pattern is the same for the civilian population and indicates an overall increase in mental health challenges, the more rapid increase in those who have served is notable. Among those who have served, the percentage reporting seriously thinking about suicide in the past year increased 51% since 2011-2012 (from 4.1% to 6.2%), compared to 32% in those without military service history (from 3.8% to 5.0%). Additionally, while those who have served reported lower rates of depression compared to their civilian counterparts in 2011-2012 (15.0% vs. 16.9%), rates have increased 27% (to 19.1% in 2019-2020) for those who have served. At the same time, rates have increased 11% (to 18.8% in 2019-2020) for their civilian counterparts.
The percentage of adults who report having serious, moderate or mild mental illness in the past year has increased 24% since 2011-2012 in those who have served (17.3% to 21.5%) compared to an increase of 14% in those who have not (18.9% to 21.5%). Similarly, the prevalence of self-reported frequent mental distress (reporting that their mental health was not good for 14 or more days in the past 30 days) has increased 29% in those who have served since 2011-2012 (from 11.3% to 14.6%) compared to only 15% (from 12.1% to 13.9%) in those who have not served.
The rates of mental health challenges are markedly higher among some subpopulation groups of those that have served. Females who have served report rates of mental illness that are 1.5 times higher (37.8% vs. 26.0%) than their civilian counterparts, and their rate of suicidal thoughts is almost twice as high (10.1% vs. 5.5%). Males who have served are 1.4 times more likely to have received a diagnosis of depression than those who have not served (17.4% vs. 12.7%).
Among those who have served, female adults are 1.5 times more likely than male adults to report frequent mental distress (19.9% vs. 13.5%), a difference that is also present in the non-serving population. Females who have served are also 1.6 times more likely to report depression (27.9% vs. 17.4%), 2.1 times more likely to have experienced mental illness in the past year (37.8% vs. 18.2%) and have 1.9 times the rate of suicidal thoughts as their male counterparts (10.1% vs. 5.4%).