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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Dec;47(11):1687-94.

Hearts and minds: suicide among United States combat troops in Vietnam, 1957-1973.


The literature on suicides among military personnel in a combat zone remains anecdotal. Although one finds literary and journalistic accounts of the problem, it has not been systematically analyzed. This paper will examine suicides among American combat troops during their tour of duty in Vietnam. Utilizing statistical data from the Southeast Asia Combat Area Casualties Database (SACACD), the authors will survey its epidemiology among U.S. ground troops in Vietnam from 1957 to 1973. The results suggest that certain types of combat troops were significantly more likely than others to commit suicide. These findings not only provide important predictors for military health professionals in the assessment of suicide risk, they also raise disturbing questions about the nature of organized armed conflict.

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