Veterans with a long period of service in the Armed Forces have a reduced risk of early death, according to a study by the University of Glasgow…

People who spend longer in employment are generally at lower risk of early death (the ‘healthy worker effect’), but few studies have looked at whether this holds good for military service.

This new study looked at the long-term risk of mortality in all veterans living in Scotland who served between 1960 and 2012, compared with people who had never served in the Armed Forces. Overall, there was no difference in risk between the veterans and non-veterans, but people who served for more than 12 years had an 18% reduced risk of death compared to non-veterans of the same age.

People with the shortest service had a 15% higher risk of early death but there was no difference between these veterans and non-veterans, if social and economic circumstances which can reduce life expectancy were taken into account. Veterans who died were 18% more likely to have had a smoking-related health condition than non-veterans.

Lead researcher Dr Beverly Bergman said: “This is an important study which provides further reassurance that longer military service is beneficial to health. It confirms our earlier studies which show that smoking has had a major influence on veterans’ health. It also shows that some of the poorer outcomes in early service leavers may be due to socio-economic circumstances after discharge.”

The study, which used data from the Scottish Veterans Health Study, is published in Occupational Medicine.