This is AIHW’s sixth annual report on suicide among permanent, reserve, and ex-serving ADF members (‘member’ is used throughout to refer to those who are serving and those who are ex-serving). This report includes those with at least one day of service from 1985 to 2021, with the suicides monitored over the period from 1997 to 2021. This cohort and monitoring period have been expanded to include the latest year of available data over last year’s report. The general patterns, including rates of suicide and comparisons with the Australian population, are similar to previous AIHW reports.
Further information on the veteran population scope and expanded monitoring period can be found in the Technical notes.
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 (49% and 45% lower respectively).
Ex-serving males and females have an increased risk of suicide
Ex-serving males are 26% more likely to die by suicide than Australian males, and ex-serving females are 107% more likely (or about twice as likely) to die by suicide than Australian females. However, rates vary within the subpopulations of the ex-serving cohort.
Males who separate voluntarily have similar rates of suicide to the Australian population
The suicide rate of ex-serving males who separated voluntarily is similar to the general Australian population as measured by the age-adjusted suicide rate.
Males who separate for involuntary medical reasons have an increased risk of suicide
The suicide rate for ADF-ex-serving males who separate for involuntary medical reasons is around 3 times the rate of those who separate voluntarily (67.1 and 21.5 per 100,000 population per year respectively).
Younger age groups have an increased risk of suicide
Ex-serving males under 50 were more likely to die by suicide than those aged over 50 years (36.8 and 19.8 per 100,000 population per year respectively).
Those who separate as officers have lower rates of suicide
The suicide rate for ex-serving males who separated as officers is about half the rate of those who separated at other ranks (16.1 and 33.2 per 100,000 population per year respectively).
Most ADF members who separated for involuntary medical reasons were DVA clients
The majority of ex-serving males and females who separated for involuntary medical reasons, a group likely to have increased support needs, were DVA clients.
Article – Serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members: Suicide and select causes of death,1997 to 2021
This monitoring report is accompanied by a separate article that presents information about suicide and other causes of death from 1997 to 2021 among ADF members who have served since 1985.
Caution: Some readers may find parts of this article confronting or distressing as it contains information on methods used for suicide. As such, and in line with the Mindframe guidelines on responsible and safe suicide and self-harm reporting, access to the report has been limited to individuals from the Australian Government, research bodies, and tertiary education institutions. Requests received from others are unlikely to be approved unless a compelling reason is provided. Please consider your need to read this article. To request access to this article, please email [email protected] and provide the purpose of the access request.
Help or support
If you need help or support, please contact:
- Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling – Phone: 1800 011 046
- Open Arms Suicide Intervention
- Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) – Phone: 1800 628 036
- Defence Member and Family Helpline – Phone: 1800 624 608
- Defence Chaplaincy Support
- ADF Mental Health Services
- Lifeline – Phone: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service – Phone: 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue Support Service – Phone: 1300 22 4636
For information on support provided by DVA, see: