The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has today released a report investigating the socioeconomic characteristics of ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) males who died by suicide.
Ex-serving ADF members as a population group are acknowledged as being at increased risk of suicide. The analysis in the report was originally prepared for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide currently taking place to investigate this heightened suicide risk.
Findings from the report indicated that ex-serving ADF males who died by suicide were more likely to be younger, widowed, divorced or separated, have never married, have a lower income, or to have lived alone, than the total ex-serving ADF male population.
Some of the key findings of the analysis include:
- Younger ex-serving males were four times more at risk of suicide compared with older ex-serving males (45-80).
- The majority of ex-serving ADF males who died by suicide were aged under 45 years (86%), compared to 53% of all Australian males who died by suicide.
- Ex-serving males who were widowed, separated, divorced or never married were four times more at risk of suicide relative to those who were married. Almost two thirds (66%) of ex-serving males who died by suicide were widowed, separated, divorced or never married.
- Ex-serving males earning $200-599 per week were seven times more at risk of suicide compared to those earning $1500 or more.
- Ex-serving males living alone were six times more at risk of suicide compared with those in a couple with children.
- The proportion of ex-serving males who died by suicide living alone (27%) was greater than the proportion of Australian males who died by suicide living alone (20%).
The analysis included ex-serving ADF males with at least one day of service since 1 January 2001, in relation to deaths by suicide between 9 August 2011 and 31 December 2018. Socioeconomic characteristics (sourced from Census data) of ex-serving ADF males who died by suicide were compared to all ex-serving ADF males, as well as Australian males who died by suicide. Ex-serving ADF females were not included in the analysis due to small numbers and statistical limitations.
Other findings in the report are consistent with previous reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s annual Defence Force suicide monitoring reports, for example that ex-serving males who died by suicide were more likely to have a shorter length of service period or have separated from the defence force involuntarily.
Importantly, while these socioeconomic factors are associated with increased suicide risk, they cannot be considered direct causes. The reasons that may lead someone to attempt or die by suicide are complex and interconnected. However, these findings help to shed light on particular groups and vulnerabilities, and potential opportunities to intervene early or provide further support.