This is AIHW’s fifth annual report on suicide among permanent, reserve, and ex-serving ADF members (‘member’ is used throughout to refer to both serving and ex-serving). This report includes members with at least one day of ADF service from 1 January 1985 to 31 December 2020, with the suicides monitored over the period 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2020. This monitoring period is expanded and includes more years than in the previous report (1 January 2001 to 31 December 2019). The expanded monitoring period was included following investigations of ADF member deaths data through the years 1997-2000, and was updated to include 2020 as the most recent year of data available.
The general patterns, including rates of suicide and comparisons with the Australian population, remain similar to previous AIHW reports. However, as the suicide monitoring period used in this report has expanded there is an increase in the number of suicides.
Further information on the veteran population scope and expanded monitoring period can be found in the Technical notes.
Permanent and reserve males have a lower risk of suicide
Permanent and reserve males are about half as likely to die by suicide as Australian males (49% and 46% lower respectively).
Ex-serving males and females have an increased risk of suicide
Ex-serving males are 27% more likely to die by suicide than Australian males, and ex-serving females are 107% more likely (or about twice as likely) to die by suicide than Australian females. However, rates vary within the subpopulations of the ex-serving cohort.
Males who separate voluntarily have similar rates of suicide to the Australian population
The suicide rate for ADF ex-serving males who separate voluntarily is similar to the general Australian population as measured by the age-adjusted suicide rate.
Males who separate for involuntarily medical reasons have an increased risk of suicide
The suicide rate for ADF ex-serving males who separate for involuntarily medical reasons is around three times the rate of those who separate for voluntarily (69.8 and 22.5 per 100,000 population per year respectively).
Mood (affective) disorders (including depression) were the most common risk factor
Around half (49%) of all ADF males and 66% of all ADF females who died by suicide were identified as having mood (affective) disorders.
Problems in spousal relationship and suicide ideation were the second and third most common risk factors for males
Around 4 in 10 (41%) ADF males who died by suicide were identified as having problems in spousal relationship circumstances, with nearly 3 in 10 (29%) identified as having suicide ideation.
Personal history of self-harm and problems in spousal relationship were the second and third most common risk factors for females
Almost 2 in 5 (38%) ADF females who died by suicide were identified as having a personal history of self-harm, and problems in spousal relationship circumstances (38%).
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Please consider your need to read the following information. If this material raises concerns for you or if you need immediate assistance, please contact any of the following:
- Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling 1800 011 046
- Open Arms Suicide Intervention page
- Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) 1800 628 036
- Defence Member and Family Helpline 1800 624 608
- Defence Chaplaincy Support 1300 333 362
- ADF Mental Health Services
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 22 4636
For information on support provided by DVA, see: