Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Comparing negative health indicators in male and female veterans with the Canadian general population
  1. Amy L Hall1,
  2. J Sweet1,
  3. M Tweel1 and
  4. M B MacLean1,2
  1. 1Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
  2. 2School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amy L Hall, Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, Charlottetown, PEI C1A1L1, Canada; amy.hall{at}


Introduction Sex-based information on differences between Canadian veterans and the general population is important to understand veterans’ unique health needs and identify areas requiring further research. This study compared various health indicators in male and female veterans with their Canadian counterparts.

Methods Health indicators for recent-era Regular Force veterans (released between 1998 and 2015) were obtained from the 2016 Life After Service Survey and compared with the general population in the 2015–16 Canadian Community Health Survey using a cross-sectional approach. Age-adjusted rates and 95% CIs were calculated for males and females separately.

Results Compared with Canadians, veterans (both sexes) reported higher prevalence of fair or poor health and mental health, needing help with one or more activity of daily living, lifetime suicidal ideation and being diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, back problems, chronic pain, arthritis, ever having cancer, hearing problems, chronic pain and gastrointestinal problems. A higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease (all types) and high blood pressure was observed in male veterans compared with their Canadian counterparts. Within veterans only, males reported a higher prevalence of diagnosed hearing problems and cardiovascular disease compared with females; conversely females reported a higher prevalence of diagnosed migraines, mood, anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders, and needing help with activities of daily living. These sex differences are similar to the Canadian general population. Some similarities in reporting prevalence between male and female veterans (eg, fair or poor mental health, lifetime suicidal ideation, arthritis, asthma, lifetime cancer incidence, chronic pain and diabetes) were not observed in other Canadians.

Conclusion Male and female veterans differed from comparable Canadians, and from each other, in various areas of health. Further research is needed to explore these findings, and veteran-based policies and services should consider sex differences.

  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • public health
  • epidemiology

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors ALH and MBM conceptualised the work and interpreted the data. JS conducted data analysis. MT performed a literature review to inform interpretation. All authors contributed to drafting and critically revising the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The data collection and data access procedures for both surveys were reviewed and approved by the relevant policy committees at Statistics Canada that fulfill the functions of a Research Ethics Board, following the principles of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Statistics Canada’s microdata access guidelines are available at:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.