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Navy desertions have more than doubled amid suicide concerns, as sailors feel trapped by contracts


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The number of sailors who deserted the Navy more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, while desertions in other military branches dropped or stayed flat, pointing to a potential Navy-wide mental health crisis amid a spate of recent suicides, according to experts and federal statistics obtained by NBC News.

Among a fleet of more than 342,000 active sailors, there were 157 new Navy deserters in 2021, compared with 63 in 2019 and 98 in 2020, Navy data shows. The total number of deserters who were still at large in 2021 grew to 166 from 119 in 2019. Most of them were 25 and younger.

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