Data sources

The information in this report is based on fact of death information from the National Death Index and cause of death information from the National Mortality Database as well as information on members of the three ADF service status groups from Department of Defence payroll systems. The psychosocial factor deaths coding was sourced from information in the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). 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 Australian Coordinating Registry as compiled by the ABS on behalf of Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDM). Cause of death and demographic items are coded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from data originating from the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the National Coronial Information System (managed by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety). 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.

    NMD is used in the analysis of psychosocial risk factors and associated causes of death for Australian males and females.

  • 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 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 since 1 January 2000 of members serving full time. This database is linked to PMKeyS and NDI and, in the past, records with a status of ‘confirmed’ were used by AIHW to supplement cause of death data from the NDI (for numbers of suicides only). However, consultation with Defence indicated that confirmation of suicides on this database is based on the same coronial information as the NMD and the NDI, and as such the decision was made to not use it in this year’s report.

  • National Coronial Information System (NCIS). The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) was established in 2000 and contains information on coroner referred deaths registered since 1 July 2000 for all Australian States and Territories except of Queensland which commenced on 1 January 2001 (NCIS n.d.). Administration of the NCIS is provided by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety.

    In this study, information from the NCIS was used by the ABS to code associated causes of death, including psychosocial risk factors, for ADF members who died by suicide. The ABS coding resulted in a risk factor coding dataset which was linked with Defence payroll data.