2019 veteran suicide mortality study
Simkus, K., Hall, A., Heber, A., & VanTil, L.
Suicide in Canadian Veterans is a top public health concern for Veterans Affairs Canada. Collaboration between Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, and Statistics Canada has led to a series of reports under the Veteran Suicide Mortality Study (VSMS). In 2017, VSMS examined the magnitude of suicide risk in Canadian Veterans. In 2018, VSMS identified subpopulations within the Veteran community who were at higher risk of suicide.
In this report, the 2019 VSMS uses the military career records for over 230,000 former Canadian Armed Forces personnel linked to Canadian death records at Statistics Canada for the period 1976 to 2014. Suicides were identified by cause of death classification from provincial and territorial coroners’ reports. Age-adjusted rates were calculated to examine trends over time. Standardised Mortality Ratios were calculated to compare the magnitude of suicide risk in Veterans to that of the Canadian general population.
The 2019 VSMS has three key findings:
1. Over the entire 39-year observation period, the risk of suicide for both male and female Veterans was observed to be consistently higher than in the Canadian general population. The risk observed in the additional two years of data available (2013 and 2014) was similar to previous time periods. The observed risk of suicide has neither increased nor decreased over this 39 year period. 2. Male Veterans overall had a 1.4 times higher risk of dying by suicide compared to the male Canadian general population, with the youngest group at highest risk. 3. Female Veterans overall had a 1.9 times higher risk of dying by suicide compared to the female Canadian general population, and this risk was relatively consistent across age groups.
These findings are consistent with earlier VSMS reports, as well as with similar studies from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Findings from the 2019 VSMS will be used to inform suicide prevention activities for Canadian Veterans in conjunction with other research from Veterans Affairs Canada and Department of National Defence. Future VSMS reports will incorporate additional years of suicide mortality data as they become available, to continue monitoring the risk of Veteran suicide over time.