Risk for suicidal ideation in the U.S. Air Force: An ecological perspective

Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Jeffery D. Snarr, Amy M Smith Slep, Richard E. Heyman, Heather M. Foran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Suicidal members of the U.S. military often fail to disclose their suicidal urges and behaviors. Military suicide prevention efforts may therefore be enhanced if they also target less stigmatized psychosocial factors that may decrease risk of suicidality. In keeping with Bronfenbrenner's (1977, 1994) model, this study simultaneously examined 4 ecological levels (i.e., individual, family, workplace, and community) of factors variously associated with increased or decreased risk for suicidal ideation. Active-duty U.S. Air Force members (N = 52,780; 79.3 male; 79.2 non-Hispanic White; mean age = 31.78 years, SD = 7.38) completed the 2006 Community Assessment survey (a biennial, anonymous survey conducted at 82 U.S. Air Force bases worldwide), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (2008) 5-item measure of past-year suicidality along with scales assessing an array of potential predictors. The 1-year rate of suicidal ideation, defined as (a) more than rarely thinking about suicide or (b) ever seriously considering suicide, was approximately 4. In multivariate models, for men and women, individual- (depressive symptoms and alcohol problems), family- (relationship satisfaction and intimate partner victimization), workplace- (hours worked), and community-level (social support) variables were retained in the final model. However, some sex differences in retained predictors were noted (e.g., men: dissatisfaction with the U.S. Air Force way of life; women: workplace relationship satisfaction and financial stressors). Addressing depressive symptoms and alcohol use, facilitating healthy relationship functioning, and increasing job satisfaction and social support may aid military suicide prevention efforts. These findings illustrate the importance of attending to multiple levels of potential influence when designing integrated suicide prevention and intervention programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-612
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • ecological model
  • military
  • risk and promotive factors
  • suicidal ideation
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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