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What Are the Chances of Dying in the Military?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what are the chances of dying in the military

Being in the military comes with risks, the most obvious of which are injury and death.

While many people are aware of parades and memorials that honor deceased veterans, few know the fatality rates involved in joining the armed forces. So, what are the chances of dying in the military?

In 2021, the armed forces had 1,323,648 active-duty service members and 1,009 deaths, resulting in a fatality rate of 0.07%. This number is pretty low, even if we compare it to regular jobs like construction, transportation, or manufacturing.

It may also surprise you that from 2006 to 2021, most U.S. military deaths stemmed from accidents rather than combat.

We’ll explore other causes of US military casualty below.

How Likely Are You To Die in The Military?

As stated above, your chances of dying in the military are pretty low.

The top reasons for death in the armed forces are: accidents, self-inflicted harm or suicide, injury, followed by death in action, and fatal wounds.


From 2006 to 2021, there were 19,378 military deaths in total among active-duty service members. Below is the percentage of dying for each cause:

  • Accidents (6,198 deaths; 32% of all cases)
  • Self-inflicted harm or suicide (4,930 deaths; 25.4% total)
  • Illness/injury (3,470 deaths; 17.9%)
  • Death in action (2,740 cases; 14.1%)
  • Wounds (891 cases; 4.6%)
  • Homicide (619 deaths; 3.2%)
  • Undetermined (1.7%)
  • Pending/Currently Unknown (0.9%)
  • Terrorism (0.1%)
  • Death In Captivity (4 cases; 0%)

Overall, if you enlist in the military, your first concern regarding survival may be your own mental health rather than enemy assaults.


Leaving aside military death statistics by cause, you may be interested in learning the military death rate by branch as well.

While we were unable to acquire the number of deaths per year for each cause, the statistics for self-inflicted fatalities were available for the year 2022.


  • In the Navy, the suicide rate per 100,000 service members was 20.6, while in the Air Force, the corresponding rate was 19.7.
  • Among all branches, the Marines had the highest self-inflicted death rate, at 34.9.
  • The Space Force, on the other hand, was the opposite, as it recorded no suicide in the same year.
  • The only unit that came close to the Marines was the Army infantry, with an unfortunate suicide rate of 28.9.


Though enlistment can be dangerous, many people find the benefits of military service worth it.

From a university education without student loans to favorable healthcare and life insurance, or even tax breaks, joining the armed forces comes with perks you may not find in a private sector job.

Still, it’s useful to ask yourself, “what are the chances of dying in the military?” before making that big leap to enlistment.

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