US Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than one-fourth did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.
The report found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active-duty soldiers last year, up from 88 the previous year.
The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 26 years, from last year's high of 17.3 per 100,000 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.
Last year, "Iraq was the most common deployment location for both [suicides] and attempts," the report said.
The 99 suicides included 28 soldiers deployed to the two wars and 71 who weren't. About twice as many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide as did women not sent to war, the report said.
Preliminary numbers for he first half of this year indicate the number of suicides could decline across the service but increase among troops inside the war zones, officials said.
The increases for last year came as Army officials worked to set up a number of new and stronger programs for providing mental health care to a force strained by the longer-than-expected war in Iraq and US President George W. Bush's worldwide campaign against terror, entering its sixth year.
Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs were factors motivating the soldiers to commit suicide, according to the report.
"In addition, there was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.
About a quarter of those who killed themselves had a history of at least one psychiatric disorder. Of those, about 20 percent had been diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder and-or depression; and 8 percent had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including post traumatic stress disorder.