Using Skewed Statistics To Make Military Veterans Look Bad
Coming hot on the heels of a report about homelessness among veterans comes a new story, supposedly from CBS News, trumpeting a new "study" that claims the suicide rate of veterans is twice the national average. "This must be because veterans are unstable" is the unspoken slant of such reports. Of course, these slanted stories never take into account the gender imbalance of the veteran population.
The report says that the suicide rate for veterans in 2005 was 18.7 per 100,000, and claims the rate for Americans as a whole is 8.9. That's over twice the frequency! They don't mention, however, that men actually succeed in suicide at a rate about 4 times that of women, so the actual rate for men as a whole is closer to 18 -- not really much of a statistical difference if we assume the vast majority of veterans are men. (In the same way, the over-representation of veterans among the homeless is lessened if we compare homelessness numbers by gender, since men are over three times more likely to be homeless.)
While this doesn't lessen the tragedy of any suicide among veterans, an acknowledgement of the true magnitude of the problem may result in more effective programs to alleviate the crisis.
Update 0645 15 Nov: Via Neptunus Lex, Bill Sweetman makes pretty much the same point but with more up-to-date numbers.