Veteran Suicide in New York State



Funding Area

Veterans’ Health


January 28, 2020

Veterans’ Health

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States—it affects all demographic groups, and our nation’s veterans are particularly at risk.

While making up 8% of the U.S. adult population, veterans accounted for 14% of all deaths by suicide among the adult population in 2017.

Similarly, New York State veterans die by suicide at a much higher rate than the overall State population. Particularly concerning is the increasing rate of suicide among New York’s youngest veterans, even as rates among older veterans have declined.

Although New York has the second-lowest rate of veteran suicide in the nation (as of 2017), we can and must do better. Governor Cuomo announced in his 2020 State of the State a commitment to focus on suicide prevention among veterans and other vulnerable groups, and NYSHealth plans to emphasize suicide prevention in its veterans’ health program in 2020.

This NYSHealth issue brief presents how New York’s veteran suicide rate compares to the rest of the country, examines how veteran suicide rates are changing in New York over time, and explores how State policies might influence veteran suicide rates.

Key Takeaways:

  • Veterans in New York die by suicide at a much higher rate than the overall State population.
  • Although New York has one of the lowest rates of veteran suicide in the country, 136 veterans in the State died by suicide in 2017—one nearly every other day.
  • Between 2005 and 2017, the suicide rate for New York veterans ages 18 to 34 years old more than doubled. Similarly, across the country, young veterans have the highest rates of suicide.
  • From 2015 to 2017, Livingston, Columbia, and Wyoming counties experienced the highest rates of veteran suicide in the State.
  • Veterans are more likely than the overall population to use firearms as a method of suicide. New York State’s strict gun laws may offer insight into its comparatively low rate of veteran suicide.
  • Firearms are the most lethal method of suicide (85% of those who use firearms as a method of suicide die, compared with 5% of those who used other methods of suicide).