Canadian troops more likely to have experienced childhood abuse, violence: study

A new study says approximately half of military personnel in Canada begin their service with a history of abuse in their childhood, including corporal punishment, or witnessed domestic violence as children.

OTTAWA — A new study says approximately half of military personnel in Canada begin their service with a history of abuse in their childhood, including corporal punishment, or witnessed domestic violence as children.

The research, conducted by the Department of National Defence and the University of Manitoba, also found that exposure to child abuse and trauma among soldiers is proportionally higher than in the civilian population.

Health specialists were looking to understand the factors driving the series of suicides that has gripped the military.

The Canadian Press reported on the initial findings of the study a year ago after it was presented at a military medical conference, but the research was finalized and published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry.

The study reports that child abuse exposure was higher in the regular forces — at 47.7 per cent — and higher still in reserve forces with 49.4 per cent, compared with 33.1 per cent in the Canadian general population.

“Regular Forces personnel were more likely than the (general population) to have experienced all types of child abuse exposure with the exception of sexual abuse among males,” said the report.

“Reserve Forces personnel were more likely than the (general population) to have experienced any physical abuse and exposure to intimate partner violence (with the exception of females for the exposure to intimate partner violence only) sexual abuse was more likely in the reserve Forces compared with the (general population) among females in the higher income category only.”

Why almost half of all military personnel in Canada have a history of child abuse exposure is not something the study was able to determine, the authors said.

Significantly, the analysis concludes the link between child abuse exposure and suicide was often “significantly weaker” in military personnel compared to civilians. But trauma early in life combined with witnessing horrors overseas does have an “effect on past-year suicidal ideation and suicide plans.”

The report says the findings are significant for both soldiers and civilians, but recommends suicide prevention efforts be aimed at those who’ve suffered childhood trauma.

Abuse is defined in the report as being kicked, bitten, punched, choked, burned or attacked as youngsters, including sexual violence. It also includes the trauma of having witnessed “intimate partner violence” while growing up.

The new study relies on data in the mental-health portion of the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, which questioned more than 25,000 people, and the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey, which is based on responses from more than 8,100 members of the military.

It follows a major study in the U.S. three years ago by the mental-health research branch of the Veterans Administration, Duke University and the University of Alabama. That research concluded that abuse, neglect and other childhood ordeals were major contributors to mental-health problems suffered by soldiers later in life.

In 2014, the Canadian Forces surgeon general Brig.-Gen. Jean-Robert Bernier told a Commons committee that the mental health of soldiers was an issue the military was struggling to understand. He pointed to the extraordinarily high rate of depression among serving members.

The new research may shed more light on that.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Need a knife? There are knives of all shapes and sizes at The Kitchen Store.
Hints from Heloise: Finding a good set of kitchen knives

Dear Readers: A good set of knives in the kitchen is a… Continue reading

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Most Read