Vietnam Veterans Health Study Released
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson, today released the latest reports from a series of studies aimed at obtaining a comprehensive picture of the health of Australians who served in the Vietnam War.
The Australian Vietnam Veterans Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study, produced by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, compared mortality and cancer incidence data of nearly 60,000 male Vietnam veterans with similarly aged Australian men who did not serve.
The comparison covered a period of 35 years for the mortality component of the study, and 19 years for the cancer incidence study.
“Vietnam veterans have a 6 % lower mortality rate compared to the general Australian population, while recording a 15 % higher incidence of cancer and 6 % cancer mortality rate than expected,” Mr Billson said.
“Quite simply, war service in Vietnam has had a negative impact on the health of many service personnel, as shown by the National Service report, and the Government recognises this.
“However this study suggests that the stringent recruitment requirements for the ADF have played a part in lower mortality rates for veterans over the 35 year study period - what the experts call the healthy worker effect. Their higher level of health and fitness at the time they were selected for service in Vietnam has equipped veterans well for the future health impact of their war service.”
Other key findings include:
“A positive outcome of this study is that it confirms that health services available to Vietnam veterans through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are well targeted to meet their needs and an active approach to health can deliver positive results for them,” Mr Billson said.
“The study validates earlier decisions to provide Government-funded treatment for all malignant cancers and post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depressive disorders, whether or not they have been accepted as service-related.
“The Government also provides free screening for Navy veterans to detect cancers associated with asbestos exposure.
“The mental well-being of veterans is a priority for the Australian Government and Vietnam veterans can access counselling services for themselves and their families through the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service. The Howard Government’s recent $20 million boost in mental health funding will also deliver significant improvements to the services and programs available to Vietnam veterans.
“The Department of Veterans’ Affairs offers a comprehensive range of health and well-being initiatives such as The Right Mix and the Men’s Health Peer Education Program, which target alcohol and tobacco consumption and other lifestyle-related conditions.
“The Government is committed to ensuring appropriate health programs continue to be available to all Vietnam veterans to help them maintain their health and, where required, access treatment. I encourage veterans to take an active approach to their health,” Mr Billson said.
The Australian Vietnam Veterans Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study extends the previous mortality study of Vietnam veterans which was published in 1997. The results of the study have been published in three volumes:
- * Veterans showed a higher rate of mortality or cancer incidence from conditions associated with alcohol misuse, smoking and excessive exposure to the sun;
- * The suicide rate amongst Vietnam veterans, 0.7 %, did not differ from the general population. There were 421 suicide deaths of Vietnam veterans during the 35 year study period;
- * Navy veterans suffered higher levels of adverse health outcomes than their colleagues in the Army and Air Force. However, the study did not find any association between the higher cancer incidence of Navy veterans and the ship on which they served or the amount of time spent in Vietnam waters. This will allay concerns of adverse dioxin exposure from consumption of potable water amongst this group of veterans;
- * The study indicates that Vietnam veterans are taking positive action to maintain their health and are successfully accessing early screening and treatment.
Editors Note: Electronic copies of the health study are available at:
The Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service (VVCS) is a specialised and confidential Australia-wide service for all Australian veterans and their families, including peacekeepers and current members of the ADF, and is available by calling 1800 011 046.
Media inquiries: Cameron Hill 0408 239 521
- * Cancer Incidence in Australian Vietnam Veterans Study 2005;
- * The Third Australian Vietnam Veterans Mortality Study 2005; and
- * Australian National Service Vietnam Veterans: Mortality and Cancer Incidence 2005.
RETURN TO the Australian Veteran information