Summary

The term ‘veteran’ traditionally described former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who were deployed to serve in war or war-like environments. Veterans are now considered people who have any experience in the ADF including current (permanent), reserve, and former (ex-serving) personnel (Tehan 2017).

Veterans’ information is available from a variety of data sources including administrative data and surveys.

The exact number of Australian veterans is unknown and varies between data sources

As at 31 December 2019, almost 373,500 Australians had served at least one day in the ADF since 1985. Of these, just over 358,000 were still alive of which 59,000 were permanent, 38,700 reserve and nearly 261,000 ex-serving (AIHW 2021).

As at 30 June 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) estimated there were about 613,000 living Australian veterans who had ever served in the ADF, either full time or in the reserves. For more information, see How many Australian veterans are there?

Ex-serving ADF members are typically older

As at 31 December 2019, the median age for permanent ADF members was 31 and for reserve ADF members was 37, whereas the majority of ex-serving members (79%) were aged 40 years and over. DVA clients are generally older than non-DVA clients, with more than half (55%) of all DVA clients being 65 years and over compared to 46% of non-DVA clients in 2017–18. For more information, see Who are veterans?

The majority of male veterans rate their health as good or better

In 2017–18, 78% of males who had served in the ADF rated their health as good or better, with 48% of male veterans considering themselves to be in excellent or very good health. However, this is lower compared with people who had never served in the ADF, with 56% rating their health as excellent or very good. For more information, see Health status.

Male veterans share similar exposure to several health risk factors compared with males who have never served

In 2017–18, males who had ever served in the ADF had similar exposure to several health risk factors compared with males who had never served. This includes similar exposure to smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. However, males who had ever served in the ADF had higher exposure to exceeding lifetime risk guidelines for alcohol consumption, and to being overweight or obese. For more information, see Health risk factors.

Around 1 in 5 males, regardless of whether they have served or not, have a mental or behavioural condition

In 2017–18, similar proportions of males who had or had not served in the ADF had a mental or behavioural condition (22% compared with 18%). For more information, see Health status.

Permanent, reserve and ex-serving ADF males have lower all-cause mortality rates

Age-specific all-cause mortality rates between 2002–2019 for permanent, reserve, or ex-serving ADF males were lower than rates for Australian males, except for ex-serving ADF males aged 16–29 where the rate was higher than Australian males. For more information, see Health status.

Permanent and reserve males have a lower risk of suicide

Permanent and reserve males are about half as likely to die by suicide as Australian males (51% and 48% lower respectively). Ex-serving males are at a higher risk of death by suicide than Australian males (24% higher). For more information, see Health status.