Year: 2019 Source: Charlottetown, PEI: Veterans Affairs Canada, Research Directorate Technical Report, (2018). 61 p. SIEC No: 20190823

Deaths by suicide in our Veteran population are tragic and a top public health concern. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is committed to the well-being of its Veterans, and researching and preventing suicides is one of the department’s health priorities.

The Veteran Suicide Mortality Study (VSMS) uses Department of National Defence military career records of over 200,000 former Regular Force and Reserve Class C personnel linked to Canadian death records at Statistics Canada, and follows a cohort of Veterans who released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) between 1976 and 2012. In 2017, the VSMS measured the magnitude of suicide in the CAF Veteran population. Both males and females were significantly more likely to die by suicide than the Canadian general population over the approximately four decades examined. Male Veterans were at highest risk of suicide in the youngest age groups, and the risk decreased with age. The suicide risk in female Veterans did not change with age.

Using the same data, the 2018 VSMS aimed to identify subpopulations within the Veteran community who were at higher risk of suicide, and also identify how many years after release Veterans were at greatest risk of dying by suicide. Cox proportional models, hazard ratios, age-adjusted rates, and standardised mortality ratios were used to identify risk factors at release from the CAF, in addition to changes in suicide risk over time after release.