Summary

This is a study of the mortality patterns of Australian Korean War veterans following the Korean War.  It was prompted by concerns from the Korean War veteran community that their death rates were higher than the Australian male population, and that this increase was due to their service in Korea.

It is the first mortality study of all Australian military personnel, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and included a small number of members of approved philanthropic organisations - Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army and Young Men's Christian Association - who served in Korea.  It covers deaths of veterans in the period 27 June 1950 to 31 December 2000 following completion of Korean service.

The aims of the Korean War Veterans Mortality Study were to:

  • develop a nominal roll of all Australian veterans of the Korean War,
  • develop a geographic profile of all living Australian veterans of the Korean War,
  • determine mortality rates of Australian veterans of the Korean War, and
  • compare the mortality rates of male Australian veterans of the Korean War with those of Australian males.

A protocol for this study was completed in September 1999. It defined the study aims, methods of data collection and analysis, limitations of the study, reporting, and privacy and confidentiality considerations. The absence of quantitative data on occupational and environmental exposures was acknowledged.

Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Ethics Committee and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Ethics Committee.

The study was conducted by DVA while the AIHW ascertained the causes of death and compared the death rates of Korean War veterans with the Australian population. An independent Scientific Advisory Committee was established to oversight the scientific aspects of the study and representatives of ex-Service organisations formed a Consultative Committee to represent the interests of Korean War veterans.

Table 1 shows the total numbers of male and female Korean War veterans on the Nominal

Roll, categorised by the first organisation in which they served.

Table 1: Number of veterans on the nominal roll

  Males Females Total
Navy 5,769 0 5,769
Army 10,814 34 10,848
Air Force 1,204 21 1,225
Philanthropic organisations(a) 16 3 19
Civilians(b) 10 0 10
Total 17,813 58 17,871
  1. Includes personnel from the Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army and Young Men's Christian Association.
  2. Includes war correspondents and civilian canteen staff aboard HMAS Sydney

Because only 58 females served in the Korean War, it was not feasible to conduct a scientifically reliable cohort study of mortality rates amongst female veterans.  Accordingly, mortality rates were derived for male veterans only.