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Canadians who have served in military more likely to die by suicide: study

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 1:15 pm EDT

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier's shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. A new report from the Canadian military's surgeon general says 15 regular-force members took their own lives last year, many of whom had been diagnosed with mental-health disorders.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

A landmark new study from Veterans Affairs Canada appears to confirm what many have long feared: Canadians who have served in uniform are at greater risk of taking their own lives than members of the general public.

Researchers used nearly 40 years of data from Veterans Affairs, the Department of National Defence and Statistics Canada to review the records of more than 200,000 former service members.

The troubling study shows that male veterans were 1.4 times more at risk of suicide than men who had never served in the Canadian military, particularly in the case of younger men.

The risk for female veterans was found to be even higher — 1.8 times greater than for women who hadn’t served. Age was not a factor.

The study also shows that veterans have been at an increased risk of suicide, compared with the general population, over the past four decades.

The Veterans Affairs Canada study is the first of its kind, and comes amid a new government push to reduce the number of suicides and improve the mental health of current and former military members.