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Description of a longitudinal cohort to study the health of Canadian veterans living in Ontario

Mahar AL, Aiken AB, Kurdyak P, Whitehead M, Groome PA. J Mil Veteran Fam Health. 2016; 2(1):33-42


Introduction — Social determinants of health are associated with the risk of disease and health services utilization. Understanding the distributions of sex, age, income, and other demographic variables in Canadian veterans and how they change over time is necessary to optimize service delivery and enhance research validity. This study describes the demographic patterns over time and by age at release in an Ontario cohort of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) veterans following release.

Methods — This is a retrospective cohort study using administrative healthcare data in Ontario from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Veterans were identified using codes housed at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. A descriptive analysis of key demographic variables was presented and stratified by five-year time intervals following release (0–5 years, 5–10 years, 10–15 years, and 15–20 years) and age at release.

Results — This cohort includes 23, 818 CAF and RCMP veterans. At baseline, the average age of the cohort was 41, and 14% were female. Age-specific patterns of median community income and geographic location of residence were noted. In the first five years following release, younger veterans had a lower income than older veterans. The majority of older veterans lived in the Ottawa and Kingston areas following release. Overall, the demographic profile of the cohort was stable over time.

Discussion — We have identified a valuable resource to inform the development of relevant provincial public health policy and resource allocation for veterans. The use of routinely collected healthcare data in Ontario will augment our current understanding of veteran health in Canada.

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Keywords: Health care utilization Data evaluation Health informatics

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