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Research Summary / December 2019

2019 Veteran Suicide Mortality Study: Follow-Up period from 1976 to 2014

Suicide in Canadian Veterans is a top public health concern for Veterans Affairs Canada. The Department made a commitment to examine and release an annual suicide report for the Veteran population beginning in December 2017. This work is expected to inform ongoing suicide prevention efforts.

What is this research about?

This research examines factors associated with suicide in Canadian Armed Forces Veterans  - Does the risk of suicide differ across male and female Veterans? What are the trends over time? Is the risk of suicide different for Veterans than for other Canadians?

What did the researchers do?

The Veteran Suicide Mortality Study is a collaborative study between Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada.  The study linked military career records of former Canadian Armed Forces members to death records at Statistics Canada. Using various statistical tests, the researchers compared suicide risks in male and female Veterans to the Canadian general population, and examined trends over time.

What did the researchers find?

  • The study examined over 230,000 Veterans released from the Canadian Armed Forces over a 39-year time period (1976 to 2014).
  • The majority of these Veterans were male (89%).

Male Veterans

  • The rate of suicide in male Veterans was 3.8 times higher than that of female Veterans.
  • Overall male Veterans had a 1.4 times higher risk of dying by suicide compared to other male Canadians.
  • Younger male Veterans (under age 55) had a significantly higher risk of death by suicide than other male Canadians. This was greatest in Veterans under age 25, where the risk was 2.5 times higher than other male Canadians of the same age.
  • As male Veterans aged, their risk of suicide decreased to levels below those for other male Canadians.

Female Veterans

  • Overall had a 1.9 times higher risk of dying by suicide compared to other female Canadians.
  • This risk of suicide in female Veterans did not change with age, in contrast to male Veterans.

International Comparisons

  • Over the period of 2001 to 2014, suicide rates among male Veterans in the US increased whereas the rate among male Veterans in Canada remained stable.
  • Compared to the general population, female Veterans in US were 5.9 times more likely to die by suicide and Canadian female Veterans 1.9 times more likely
  • Younger male Veterans in the US, Australia and Canada have the highest risk of suicide
  • Male Veterans in the US were 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population (Canadian male Veterans = 1.4)

Article source

Simkus K, Hall AL, Heber A, VanTil L. 2019 Veteran Suicide Mortality Study; Follow-up period  1976 to 2014. Charlottetown (PE): Veterans Affairs Canada, Research Directorate Technical Report; 4 December, 2019.

Government of Canada Publications

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