Vietnam war deaths
November 14, 2010 8:02 AM   Subscribe

More american soldiers participating in the Vietnam war have died from suicide than from war related deaths - True or false? Please supply source.
posted by Catfry to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unlikely. Studies suggest not.

There appears to be an increased risk of suicide, but even a suicide rate double that of the population, which is what some of the above links suggest, only gives you a rate of approximately 200 deaths per year. Considering that there were almost 60,000 confirmed casualties, plus 300,000 missing and presumed dead, that rate is far too low for the suicide count to top the casualty count before all of the actual vets are dead from natural causes.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2010

plus 300,000 missing and presumed dead

This can't possibly be true.
posted by Justinian at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe valkryn's thinking of US Military wounded in action, which was 303,635.
posted by zamboni at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2010

I just wanted to mention that the word "casualty" means "any soldier who cannot carry out his duty". Casualties are dead, wounded, sick, deserted, under arrest, captured by the enemy, MIA, psych, or anything else that makes it so he can't do his job. (Sorry to be pedantic.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 AM on November 14, 2010

ChocolatePickle: "Casualty" can refer to wounded as well as dead, but there were close to 60000 US service members killed as part of the Vietnam war. source.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:53 AM on November 14, 2010

You also have to consider the definition of "Vietnam combat veteran." Vietnam was a huge conflict; millions were in uniform over the course of the war, which lasted from the early 60s to the mid-70s. Raw numbers will naturally be large. Relative rates are what you want to look at.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2010

I think you'd want to compare rates for Viet Nam veterans to rates for veterans who didn't go to war, and to veterans who served in Korea and in Operation Desert Storm -- and to non-veterans. Absolute numbers can look very shocking, but they may not correlate to what you think they do.

For instance, "...that a thousand Vietnam Veterans were attempting suicide each month." That sounds awful. But suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world (about a million per year).

In the US in 2005, the suicide rate was 11.1 per 100,000. Among American men, the rate was 17.7 per 100,000. If you figure about a hundred million men in this country, then that was almost 18,000 men dead that year. I think it's valid to assume that the attempt rate would be a lot higher than that, because not all attempts succeed.

Perhaps that rate of 1000 attempts per month isn't all that disproportional.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2010

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