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Veteran suicide and associated community characteristics in Oregon.

Denneson LM, Bollinger MJ, Meunier CC, Chen JI, Hudson TJ, Sparks CS, Carlson KF. Veteran suicide and associated community characteristics in Oregon. Preventive medicine. 2023 May 1; 170:107487.

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Developing a public health approach to suicide prevention among United States (US) military veterans requires additional data and guidance on where, when, for whom, and what prevention resources should be deployed. This study examines veteran suicide mortality across one US state (Oregon) to identify county-level "hotspots" for veteran suicide, identify community characteristics associated with increased suicide among veterans, and examine excess spatial risk after accounting for space, time, and community characteristics. We linked Oregon mortality data with VA databases to identify veterans who had resided in Oregon and died by suicide between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2018 (n  =  1727). Community characteristic data were gathered at the county level from publicly available datasets on social determinants of health known to be associated with poor health outcomes, including suicide risk. We estimated spatial generalized linear mixed models for the full 10-year period and for each 5-year period using integrated nested Laplace approximation with county as the higher hierarchy. Smoothed standardized mortality ratios were used to identify counties with higher risk of veteran suicide. We found a small clustering of counties in the southwestern corner of Oregon that held the highest risk for veteran suicide across the ten years studied. In multivariable models, higher prevalence of unmarried persons was the only community measure significantly associated with increased veteran suicide risk. However, social contextual factors as a group, along with geographic space, explained most risk for suicide among veterans at the population level.

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