|Chapter 3 - Health|
This section provides summary statistics on suicide and open verdict deaths among the UK Regular Armed Forces between 1984 and 2010. The information was compiled from data held by DASA (Health Information) on 28 February 2011 and has previously been published in the National Statistic Suicide and Open Verdict Deaths in the UK Regular Armed Forces 1984-2010.
The data presented includes both coroner-confirmed suicides and open verdict deaths. In accordance with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) practice, the term 'suicide' should be understood to include all suicide and open verdict deaths. There are 22 deaths in the 'awaiting verdict' category involving a wide range of external accidental or violent causes. These have been referred to a coroner (or, for Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal) and some may be returned as suicides or open verdicts. Due to the low numbers of cases among female Service personnel (19 deaths in 27 years), most of the analyses have been restricted to males only (aged 16-59 years).
The analyses made here are based on relatively small numbers. This presents a particular challenge for complex and detailed statistical analysis. As this section presents several sub-group analyses in which some categories may only involve a handful of cases, there is a risk of misinterpreting a chance association for a real finding. Caution is recommend against reading too much into past trends and assuming that they still apply today or will continue to do so in the future. In particular, they cannot take into account a large number of policy initiatives that have been introduced in the past few years.
Deaths presented here are for the UK regular Armed Forces. The dataset includes all trained and untrained regular Service personnel. Non-regular Service personnel that were deployed on operations at the time of their death are also included. The data here exclude the Home Service of the Royal Irish Regiment, full time reservists, Territorial Army and Naval Activated Reservists who were not deployed on operations at the time of their death, as DASA do not receive routine notifications of all deaths among reservists and non-regulars, and because reliable denominator data to produce interpretable statistics are not available.
The Naval Service includes both Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel.
In order to compare time trends and to take into account the different age and gender structures of the three Services, rates have been age and gender standardised. In order to facilitate comparisons with previously published reports, data have been standardised to the 2010 Armed Forces population. Note that comparisons in previous editions of UKDS were standardised to the 2009 Armed Forces population.
To enable comparisons with suicides in the UK population, Standardised Mortality Ratios (SMR), adjusted for age, gender and year, were calculated. An SMR is defined as the ratio of the number of deaths observed in the study population to the number of deaths expected if the study population had the same age- and gender-specific rates as the standard population in each specific year multiplied by 100 by convention. Here, an SMR over (or under) 100 indicates a higher (or lower) number of observed suicides in the UK Regular Armed Forces than expected (based on UK population rates). An SMR of 100 implies that there is no difference in rates when comparing the UK Regular Armed Forces population with the UK population.
95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated based on the Normal distribution, except where the number of observed events was fewer than 30, when they were derived directly from the Poisson distribution. The width of the confidence interval gives us some idea of how uncertain we should be about the unknown parameter. Smaller samples result in wider confidence intervals, whereas larger and more representative samples will give narrower confidence intervals (providing greater accuracy).Note that the rates presented here relate to the whole population, rather than a sample. However, even in a population there is still random variation in the observed number of cases in a particular time period (particularly for rare events such as suicide). Confidence intervals are useful in making inferences about whether observed differences (e.g. between two time periods or two subgroups of the population) are significant or are likely to be due to chance alone. Two rates are said to be statistically significantly different if their confidence intervals do not overlap.
Annual strength data for UK Regular Armed Forces personnel were obtained for the period 1984-2005 from the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA). Strength data for 2006 were obtained from both AFPAA and the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system. Strength data for 2007 onwards were obtained from JPA with strengths for May 2009 onwards provisional and subject to review. In previous editions of UKDS, JPA strength data prior to May 2009 was also provisional but these figures are now considered final and no longer provisional.
Data on the size of the UK general population and the numbers of deaths by age, gender and year were obtained from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Data for 2010 were not available at the time of publication; therefore figures from 2009 were used as an estimate for 2010 as the year on year variation in the UK population figures is unlikely to affect the findings.
Further information can be found in the National Statistic Suicide and Open Verdict Deaths in the UK Regular Armed Forces 1984-2010 which is published on the DASA website.