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Am J Public Health. 2012 Mar;102 Suppl 1:S147-53. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300436. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Suicidal behavior in a national sample of older homeless veterans.

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  • 1Veterans Affairs National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, Washington, DC, USA. john.schinka@vagov



We examined self-reported suicidal behavior of older homeless veterans to establish frequencies and predictors of recent suicidal behaviors, and their impact on transitional housing interventions.


We analyzed the records of a national sample of 10,111 veterans who participated in a transition housing program over a 6-year period, ending in 2008.


Approximately 12% of homeless veterans reported suicidal ideation before program admission; 3% reported a suicide attempt in the 30 days before program admission. Older homeless veterans exhibiting suicidal behavior had histories of high rates of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. Regression analyses showed that self-report of depression was the primary correlate of suicidal behavior. Suicidal behavior before program entry did not predict intervention outcomes, such as program completion, housing outcome, and employment.


Suicidal behavior was prevalent in older homeless veterans and was associated with a history of psychiatric disorder and substance abuse. Self-reported depression was associated with these behaviors at the time of housing intervention. Despite the association with poor mental health history, suicidal behavior in older homeless veterans did not impact outcomes of transitional housing interventions.

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