File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont.

Landmark study shows military veterans at greater risk of suicide

OTTAWA — A landmark study from Veterans Affairs Canada appears to confirm what many have long feared: Canadians who have served in uniform are at greater risk of taking their own lives than members of the general public.

The results showed that the risk of suicide among male veterans of all ages was 36 per cent higher than men who had never served in the Canadian military, which was cause for concern.

But even more worrying was that the risk was significantly higher among younger male veterans, with those under 25 being 242 per cent more likely to kill themselves than non-veterans of the same age.

The risk among female veterans was also found to be alarmingly high — 81 per cent greater than for women who hadn’t served. Age was not considered as great a factor when it came to women who had worn a uniform.

The statistical study did not delve into the reasons veterans are at greater risk of suicide than the general population, though it did say that the trend has been largely consistent for decades.

Researchers used 37 years of data from Veterans Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada to review the records of more than 200,000 former service members between 1976 and 2012.

Statistics Canada was unable to provide more recent data, which is why the study did not go past 2012, though officials say they intend to continue adding to the information as more numbers become available.

The study is the first of its kind and appears to confirm what until now has been only anecdotal evidence suggesting that those who have served in the military are more likely to kill themselves.

The federal government has promised to roll out more services and support to serving and retired military personnel through a new suicide prevention strategy, which was released last month.

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said officials will now study the results and try to find ways to improve that strategy — and ultimately cut down on the number of military and veteran suicides.

“Every one of those numbers is a life,” O’Regan said outside the House of Commons on Thursday.

“You can’t stop repeating that because you’re talking about friends, you’re talking about family, you’re talking about people within the military community where these things really resonate.”

While there have long been suspicions that the suicide rate among veterans was higher than the general population, Queen’s University psychiatry professor Diane Groll said the results were nonetheless surprising.

That’s because despite concerns about the number of suicides among some segments of the military, especially the army, the overall rate among all active service members has been statistically similar to the general public.

“So I guess I would have assumed that given there is no difference in the active military, there probably wasn’t this big of a difference in the veterans,” said Groll, an expert on mental health in the military and police forces.

“My mindset was: Yes, it seems to be a lot more, anecdotally, but it comes down to coverage, so you don’t know until the hard, cold stats come out.”

Just Posted

One strong wind leaves years of replanting work for Red Deer parks staff

High visibility boulevards already replanted, neighbourhood work starts next year

Red Deer-area indigenous filmmakers invited to apply for $20,000 grant

Storyhive launches Indigenous Storyteller Edition

Restaurant closed after compliance team patrol

Public Safety Compliance Team checked eight bars and restaurants on Oct. 19

Red Deerians await local cannabis stores

So far 31 stores in Alberta awarded licence to operate

Rimbey RCMP seek missing man with health concerns

Has anyone seen Bill Harris of Ponka County?

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

Local Sports: Rudy Soffo valuable to Kings on the court

When Rudy Soffo first saw the RDC basketball Kings roster he was… Continue reading

Except for 1 kick, Saints, Ravens are evenly matched

BALTIMORE — In a matchup between the league’s highest-scoring offence and top-ranked… Continue reading

Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a top award for comedy

WASHINGTON — After a 35-year acting career and with two iconic television… Continue reading

Ricky Skaggs, Dottie West enter Country Music Hall of Fame

NASHVILLE — Bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs, singer Dottie West and… Continue reading

AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

LONDON — Stephen Hawking was a cosmic visionary, a figure of inspiration… Continue reading

Canada deemed U.S. a safe country for asylum seekers after internal review

OTTAWA — Canadian immigration officials have determined that the United States remains… Continue reading

Bombardier sues Mitsubishi over alleged theft of aircraft trade secrets

MONTREAL — Bombardier is suing Mitsubishi Aircraft in the United States over… Continue reading

Three strong earthquakes reported in Pacific Ocean off Vancouver Island

Three relatively strong earthquakes were recorded Sunday night in the Pacific Ocean… Continue reading

Most Read