B. P. Bergman, D. F. Mackay, J. P. Pell,

University of Glasgow, UK



There is no consensus as to whether military service increases the risk of suicide, although most studies have found no clear evidence of increased risk.  Data from the Trends in Scottish Veterans Health cohort were examined to investigate suicides in military veterans in Scotland and explore long-term patterns, and to make comparisons with our earlier study.


To compare the risk of suicide among military veterans with matched people with no record of military service. (1, 2)


Retrospective cohort study of 78,000 veterans and 253,000 non-veterans born between 1945 and 1995, matched for age, sex and area of residence, using survival analysis to examine the risk of suicide in veterans in comparison with non-veterans overall and by subgroup, and to investigate associations with specific mental health conditions.


Up to 37 years of follow-up, 388 (0.5%) veterans and 1,531 (0.6%) non-veterans died from suicide.  The risk of suicide among veterans did not differ from non-veterans overall. Increased risk among early service leavers was explained by differences in deprivation, and our previously reported increased risk in female veterans is now confined to older women. Suicide was most common in the fifth decade of life, and around 20 years post-service. A history of mood disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder was non-significantly more common in veterans.


Veterans are not at increased risk of suicide overall.  The highest risk for both men and women is in middle age, many years after leaving service.


  1. Bergman B, Mackay D, Smith D, Pell J. Suicide in Scottish military veterans: a 30-year retrospective cohort study. Occup Med. 2017;67(5):350-5.
  2. Bergman BP, Mackay DF, Pell JP. Suicide among Scottish military veterans: follow-up and trends. Occup Environ Med. 2021.


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