Landmark study shows military veterans at greater risk of suicide


OTTAWA — A landmark study from Veterans Affairs Canada appears to confirm what many have long feared: Canadians who have served in uniform are at greater risk of taking their own lives than members of the general public.

Researchers used nearly 40 years of data from Veterans Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada to review the records of more than 200,000 former service members.

The study, the first of its kind, comes amid a new government push to reduce the number of suicides and improve the mental health of current and former military members.

The results released Thursday show that the risk of suicide among all male veterans was 36 per cent higher than men who had never served in the Canadian military.

And like in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, the risk of suicide was greatest among younger male veterans, the researchers found.

“Male veterans under 55 years of age were at a significantly higher risk of death by suicide,” the study said, “with males under 25 years being at highest risk: 242 per cent higher risk compared to males of the same age.”

Yet the study also found that the risk of suicide among male veterans older than 55 was actually lower than men of the same age who had not worn a uniform.

The risk among female veterans was also found to be alarmingly high — 81 per cent greater than for women who hadn’t served. Age was not considered as great a factor when it came to women who had worn a uniform.

The statistical study does not delve into the reasons veterans are at greater risk of suicide than the general population, though it does say that the trend has been largely consistent over the past four decades.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press