The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging: A Vehicle for Research on Aging in Older Veterans

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging: A Vehicle for Research on Aging in Older Veterans

Year published

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) examines adult development and aging by gathering data related to health and social functioning. Participants were 45 to 85 years old when they started the study (2011-2015) and are followed over time.

What is this Research About?

This paper presents a snapshot of the Veterans who self-identified during the first round of data collection (i.e., baseline), for the CLSA and highlights the potential of the CLSA as a means for studying the aging Veteran population in Canada for years to come.

What did the Researchers Do?

All CLSA participants were asked a set of questions concerning military service. Based on these responses, they were classified as either Canadian Veterans, non-Canadian Veterans, or non-Veterans. For this paper, the researchers examined and compared various sociodemographic and health characteristics across all three groups.

What did the Researchers Find?

At CLSA baseline, there were:

  • 4,467 participants who self-identified as Veterans:
    • 3,558 Canadian Veterans
    • 909 non-Canadian Veterans (i.e., served in another country but now living in Canada)
  • 46,791 participants who did not identify as Veterans (i.e., non-Veterans)

The mean age of Canadian Veterans at 66.6 years was slightly older than that of non-Veterans (62.6 years) and younger than non-Canadian Veterans (69.5 years)

Both Veteran groups were overwhelmingly male with only 13.1% of Canadian Veterans being female and only 4.3% of non-Canadian Veterans. Over half (54.8%) of non-Veterans were female.

The majority of participants were married or common law with the Veteran groups reporting slightly higher rates: 76.2% of non-Canadian Veterans, 73.3% of Canadian Veterans, and 68.1% of non-Veterans

Participants in all three groups reported high levels of education and total household income was similar across groups (about a third of participants in each group reported an annual household income of $100,000 or more.)

Veterans were more likely to report being completely retired - 56.5% of Canadian Veterans and 57.0% of non-Canadian Veterans, compared to 44.3% of non-Veterans.

The majority (85% or more) of participants in each group reported self-rated general and mental health as excellent, very good, or good.

When the data was adjusted for age and sex, most characteristics of self-rated health remained similar across the groups except for mental health, where a greater proportion of Veterans (both Canadian and non-Canadian) screened positive for depression and anxiety compared to non-Veterans.

What Does this Research Mean?

The CLSA presents a new and interesting opportunity to examine differences and similarities between Veterans and non-Veterans living in Canada. For the first time, data is available on both Canadian Veterans and non-Canadian Veterans living in the country which offers another new opportunity for further comparison and research. These findings provide a snapshot of the three participant groups after the first data collection of the CLSA. As there will be follow-ups with all participants every three years for the next 20 years (or until death), the CLSA data provides an ongoing source of insight on an aging cohort of Veterans in Canada along with their non-Veteran peers. This will help researchers build a comprehensive description of older Veterans in Canada which can inform necessary programs and supports, as well as provide a framework for future research.


Wolfson C, Gauvin DE, Schulz J, Magalhaes S, Tansey CM, Feinstein A, Aiken A, Scarfo B, Middleton J, Raina P, VanTil L, Molnar-Szakacs I. The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging: A Vehicle for Research on Aging in Older Veterans. Mil Med. 2023 Jan 31:usad012.