Data sources

The information in this report is based on fact of death information from the National Death Index, cause of death information from the National Mortality Database and the Defence Suicide Database as well as information on members of the three ADF service status groups from Department of Defence payroll systems. The details of these sources are as follows:

  • National Mortality Database (NMD). Cause of Death Unit Record File data are provided to the AIHW by the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System (managed by the Victorian Department of Justice) and include cause of death coded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The data are maintained by the AIHW in the NMD.

    In this study, the NMD is used in the calculation of Australian rates and SMRs, and is the same source of information on cause of death as used in the NDI.

  • National Death Index (NDI). The NDI is managed by the AIHW and contains person-level records of all deaths in Australia since 1980 obtained from the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriage in each state and territory. Its use is confined to data linkage studies approved by the AIHW Ethics Committee for health and medical research. NDI records are supplemented with cause of death information from the NMD (AIHW 2018).

    In this study, the NDI is linked with Defence payroll data and the Defence Suicide Database (DSD) to create the linked Defence payroll–NDI data set used in analysis of suicide in the ADF population.

  • Department of Defence personnel system data. The Department of Defence compiled a file of current and historical Defence personnel systems covering ADF members who have served since 1 January 1985. This combines PMKeyS, Core HR system, D1, CENRESPAY (for reservists), ADFPAY (for permanent members) and other historical payment systems. The Department of Defence and AIHW assessed the resulting file for completeness and duplicates. Comparisons were made with records from Department of Defence annual reports and other sources to validate the list. Data from the National Archives was also investigated for its suitability in validation, however as the majority of records are electronic files based on photos of paper records, this was not usable.

  • Defence Suicide Database (DSD). The DSD is maintained by Defence and contains information on suspected and confirmed deaths due to suicide of members serving full time since 1 January 2000. Suspected and confirmed suicides are included in the database only on the advice of the ADF Investigative Service. Cases are confirmed by receipt of a coronial finding of suicide. This database is linked to the PMKeyS and NDI and records with a status of ‘confirmed’ are used to supplement cause of death information from the NDI for numbers of suicides only.


  • ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Causes of death, Australia, 2017. Explanatory notes. ABS cat. no. 3303.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 11 June 2019.
  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 18 June 2019. About National Death Index.
  • Curtin, L. R., & Klein, R. J. (1995). Direct standardization (age-adjusted death rates) (No. 6). Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee 2017. The Constant Battle: Suicide by Veterans. Canberra: Department of the Senate.