New reports into the wellbeing of serving and former Australian Defence Force members

Three reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) provide greater insight into the health and welfare of serving and contemporary (at least 1 day of service since 2001) ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.

The reports, which are part of an ongoing body of work commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, include an annual update on suicide monitoring, the results of research into medications dispensed and the use of homelessness services.

‘This monitoring will inform improvements in suicide prevention and other services for serving and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr. Michael Frost.

Suicide monitoring

National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel: 2019 update, is the second annual update of this study, which looks at suicide deaths among serving, reserve and contemporary ex-serving ADF personnel.

This report builds on last year’s update with the inclusion of new suicide information for 2017.

‘Between 2001 and 2017, there were 419 suicide deaths among serving, reserve and contemporary ex-serving ADF personnel,’ Mr. Frost said.

'The rate of suicide in both serving and reserve men was lower than the rate for all Australian men, while for ex-serving men it was higher.

'Suicide rates for ex-serving women have been reported for the first time in this report. The suicide rate for ex-serving women was higher than the rate for Australian women, but still lower than the rate for ex-serving men.'

Medications

Medications dispensed to contemporary ex-serving Australian Defence Force members, 2017–18, presents an initial overview of medications dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS). For the first time, this analysis also includes contemporary ex-serving ADF members who are not DVA cardholders.

Around two thirds of contemporary ex-serving ADF members were dispensed at least one medication in 2017–18, similar to the proportion in the Australian population.

‘Most medications were dispensed to contemporary ex-serving ADF members at similar rates as the general population. Rates of anti-depressants dispensed were slightly higher for ex-serving members compared with all Australians, while rates for cardiovascular medications were slightly lower,’ Mr. Frost said.

Use of homelessness services

Use of homelessness services by contemporary ex-serving ADF members: 2011–17 expands on previously released findings, and provides further insights about contemporary ex-serving ADF members who use specialist homelessness services (SHS). A summary of this report was released in August 2019.

‘Of the 109,000 contemporary ex-serving ADF members, 1.1% used SHS across the 6 years. This compares with 3.4% of the Australian population over the same period.’

‘Ex-serving women, younger veterans, and those with a shorter length of ADF service were more likely to be SHS clients,’ Mr. Frost said.

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