AIHW suicide monitoring: Serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985: suicide monitoring 1997 to 2020

In 2014, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) established a partnership to build a comprehensive profile of the health and welfare of Australia’s veteran population.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, Serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985: suicide monitoring 1997 to 2020 (released 16 November 2022), is the fifth annual update on suicides among serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members.

Key findings

The following points provide a high-level summary of the data. Please note that the groups can overlap, and should not be seen as mutually exclusive.

Permanent and reserve males have a lower risk of suicide:

  • Compared to the Australian males, permanent (49% lower) and reserve males (46% lower) are about half as likely to die by suicide as Australian males.

Ex-serving males and females have a higher risk of suicide:

  • Overall, ex-serving ADF members are at a higher risk of suicide than other Australians.
  • Ex-serving males are 27% more likely to die by suicide, and ex-serving females are 107% more likely to die by suicide. However, rates of suicide vary within subpopulations of the ex-serving cohort.

Males who separate for involuntary medical reasons have an increased risk of suicide:

  • The suicide rate for ADF ex-serving males who separate voluntarily is similar to the general Australian population.
  • The suicide rate for ex-serving males who separate involuntarily for medical reasons (69.8 per 100,000) is higher than those who separated voluntarily (22.5 per 100,000).

Older age groups have lower rates of suicide:

  • The suicide rate for ex-serving males aged 50 years and over (19.8 per 100,000 population per year) was significantly lower than the rate for ex-serving males under 50 years of age (36.8 per 100,000 population per year).

Common risk factors among ADF members:

  • 80% of males and 84% of ADF females who died by suicide had at least one psychosocial risk factor.