This report contributes to the understanding of ex-serving ADF members and families’ wellbeing needs after their separation from the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Findings from this report show that the majority of ex-serving ADF members were doing well in 2016. Many had attained higher education qualifications, were employed, earned higher incomes than the Australian population, owned their own homes (including those paying mortgages), and were socially connected by living in a family type household. It is important to note however this was not the case for everyone. Those who separated from the ADF involuntarily for medical reasons experienced wellbeing challenges such as higher unemployment rates, had lower levels of education qualifications, and were receiving lower incomes in 2016 than those who separated for any other reason. Those who served fewer years or who separated from the Navy experienced similar wellbeing challenges as mentioned above when compared to those who served longer or who served in the Army or Air Force.   

Ex-serving members of the ADF are an important group of people for wellbeing monitoring, as the nature of military service means their needs and outcomes can differ from those of the general population.

The unique nature of ADF service can enhance a person’s health and wellbeing; a phenomenon known as the ‘healthy soldier effect’. Military personnel are generally physically and mentally fit, receive regular medical assessments, and have access to comprehensive medical and dental treatment as a condition of service. Selection processes also mean they may be fitter than people in the broader Australian population when they enlist. However, ADF service increases the likelihood of exposure to trauma (either directly or indirectly) and affects support networks, for example, separation from family during deployment (Daraganova et al. 2018; Lawrence-Wood et al. 2019). These experiences mean some ex-serving ADF members may encounter challenges in everyday living above those of the Australian population, especially those who discharge involuntarily.

Australia’s veterans may experience physical and mental health needs, outcomes and challenges that are different from the rest of the Australian population, including increased risks of mental illnesses, poorer physical health and impacts to general wellbeing following separation (or transfer) from the regular ADF service (Sadler, 2019). This can affect some people during the transition phase and their success of re-integration and employment after transition, and in the longer term with the later onset of chronic health conditions (Van Hooff et al. 2019).

In 2016:

  • Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) ex-serving ADF females had a bachelor degree or higher, a rate 1.4 times higher than Australian females (26%)
  • Over three-quarters of ex-serving ADF males and females were employed in 2016 (78% and 76% respectively). This compares with 67% of Australian males and 57% of Australian females being employed at the same time
  • More than 7 in 10 (76%) ex-serving ADF males and 6 in 10 (60%) females earned a weekly personal income of $800 and above, rates 1.5 times the male and 1.8 times the female Australian populations (52% and 34% respectively)
  • The majority of ex-serving ADF members lived in a home they owned (including those paying mortgages) (70% for males and 68% for females) at rates similar to the Australian population (69% for both Australian males and females).