Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS)

Army STARRS is an unprecedented multi-study project headed by the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress in collaboration with leading academic institutions. Army STARRS is the largest research project of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among Army personnel.

The project was designed and is being conducted by an interdisciplinary research team under the leadership of Co-Principal Investigators Robert J. Ursano, M.D. at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and Murray B. Stein, M.D., M.P.H., at the University of California, San Diego. The other two major team players are site investigators Steven G. Heeringa, Ph.D., at University of Michigan, and Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School. Lisa J. Colpe, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Michael Schoenbaum, Ph.D., scientists at NIMH, are also involved.

Army STARRS is a 6-year, 65 million dollar project funded by the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health. It consists of seven separate but integrated epidemiologic and neurobiologic studies designed to comprehensively investigate risk factors and protective factors for suicide, suicide-related behavior and other mental health issues in Army Soldiers. It emphasizes the development of practical, actionable information to guide the development and refinement of suicide risk reduction efforts in and beyond the Army.

The research team has created enormous databases containing more than 1.1 billion historical administrative Army/DoD records for more than 1.6 million Soldiers on active duty from 2004 to 2009, as well as data collected directly from more than 100,000 active duty Soldiers including Regular Army, activated Army National Guard and activated Army Reserve Soldiers. The team has administered more than 177,000 questionnaires, conducted roughly 400,000 neurocognitive tests, and collected approximately 77,000 tubes of blood from approximately 52,000 Soldiers for genetic and other testing.

The Scientific Advisory Board that was assembled to advise Army STARRS put it this way:

Kerry Ressler, M.D., Ph.D., the Chair of the Army STARRS Scientific Advisory Board said: “The breadth and scope of the Army STARRS project is unique in the history of psychiatric and military research…”

LTG (Ret) Eric Schoomaker, M.D., Ph.D., who serves on the Army STARRS Scientific Advisory Board, and is a former U.S. Army Surgeon General, said: “The comprehensive nature of these inquiries has provided a data base on behavioral health, social, biological, and potentially genetic pre-determinants of suicide unprecedented in its scope and depth of understanding …”

The Army STARRS research team recently completed almost all of the planned data collection from Soldiers. Data collection from Soldiers is ongoing in one of the seven studies. However, data collection from the Army is still in progress for several studies. Therefore, the research team is only in the early phases of generating findings from the tremendous amount of data collected in Army STARRS.

In December 2013, the research team published a series of four articles in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research. These articles describe the research design and methods to serve as the foundation for other publications that will present findings. The first findings from Army STARRS were reported in a series of three articles published online in JAMA Psychiatry on March 3, 2014.