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Psychiatr Serv. 2006 Jan;57(1):107-13.

Recent sexual abuse, physical abuse, and suicide attempts among male veterans seeking psychiatric treatment.

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  • 1Center for Health Care Evaluation, Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA.



This study examined the rates of sexual and physical abuse and suicide attempts among male and female patients and focused on the associations between sexual and physical abuse and recent suicide attempts among men.


Data were examined for a cohort of patients aged 19 years and older who were seeking treatment for substance use disorders, other psychiatric disorders, or both from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) between July 1997 and September 1997. Almost all the patients in the sample (more than 99 percent) had a substance use disorder. Patients were interviewed with the Addiction Severity Index about lifetime and recent (past 30 days) sexual and physical abuse and recent suicide attempts. Because of the low prevalence of suicide attempts in the past 30 days and limited representation of female patients in this sample, the data for female patients were used only to conduct descriptive analyses to compare the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse and suicide attempts between genders.


The sample comprised 34,245 patients (33,236 males and 1,009 females). Compared with male patients, female patients were ten times as likely to have been sexually abused in the past 30 days and four times as likely to have been physically abused. Among male patients, bivariate analyses showed that those who had been recently sexually or physically abused were more likely than those who had not experienced such abuse to have attempted suicide recently (odds ratios of 4.8 and 3.0, respectively). After controlling for demographic and diagnostic factors, multivariate logistic regression analyses indicated that recent sexual abuse, recent physical abuse, and lifetime sexual abuse were significantly associated with a higher likelihood of a recent suicide attempt among male patients.


Female patients were more likely than their male counterparts to experience sexual and physical abuse. Recent and lifetime history of sexual abuse and recent physical abuse were independent risk factors for recent suicide attempts among men who were seeking treatment. The results suggest that clinicians who identify suicide attempts and suicidal tendencies among male patients should routinely assess for sexual or physical abuse.

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