Dementia among veterans
As of 30 June 2021, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) estimated that there were 613,000 living Australian veterans who have ever served in the Australian Defence Force, either full time or in the reserves (AIHW 2022).
International studies suggest an increased prevalence of dementia among veterans compared to the general population, with veterans having an increased prevalence of risk factors for dementia including traumatic brain injury sustained through active duty, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (Rafferty 2018; Singer 2015).
Although there is limited dementia research specifically for Australian veterans, studies suggest that:
- Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) differ among veterans compared with non-veterans, and veterans with dementia who experienced PTSD had more severe BPSD than veterans with dementia who had not experienced PTSD (Dunt et al. 2012).
- PTSD may not increase dementia risk among veterans, but antipsychotic use may be a contributor to dementia risk among veterans with and without PTSD (Roughead et al. 2017).
Further research is needed to better understand the relationship between dementia risk factors and prevalence of dementia among Australian veterans.
There are various aged care services available to veterans in Australia, including those with dementia. Other than the mainstream aged care services available to all Australians, eligible veterans are able to access DVA’s care and support programs - the Veterans Home Care and Community Nursing Programs for medical and personal care services to support clients to remain living independently. See Jim's story for how DVA services are currently helping Jim (who has Alzheimer's disease) to remain living at home on his own.
For more information on the expenditure from these programs for people with dementia, see Health and aged care expenditure on dementia.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2022) Health of veterans, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 17 August 2022.
Dunt D, Doyle C, MacFarlane A, Morris P, Hunter C and Day S (2012) The Impact of War Experiences on Dementia in Veterans, Department of Veterans' Affairs website, accessed 17 September 2020.
Rafferty LA, Cawkill PE, Setvelink SAM, Greenberg K and Greenberg N (2018) 'Dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder: a review of the mental health risk factors for dementia in the military veteran population', Psychological Medicine, 48: 1400-1409, doi:10.1017/S0033291717001386.
Roughead EE, Pratt NL, Kalisch Ellett LM, Ramsay EN, Barratt JD, Morris P and Killer G (2017) 'Posttraumatic stress disorder, antipsychotic use and risk of dementia in veterans', Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(7): 1521-1526, doi:10.1111/jgs.14837.
Singer CM (2015) Dementia risk factors in veterans, Journal of Aging Life Care, Spring 2015 (3), accessed 29 June 2020.