Veterans are more likely than other Canadians to have chronic health conditions, making access to health care an important issue. However, little research has addressed health care access and use among veterans. This paper examines access and use among veterans compared with other Canadians.


Health care access and use indicators were examined for Regular Force veterans using the 2016 Life After Service Survey. Information for male and female veterans was compared with information on the Canadian general population from the 2015 and 2016 Canadian Community Health Survey, using age-adjusted rates and 95% confidence intervals.


More than 80% of male and female veterans reported having a regular medical doctor in the 12 months before the survey. The majority of veterans (71% of males and 81% of females) had consulted a family doctor, while a minority had been hospitalized (8% of males and females). These rates were similar to those in the Canadian general population. However, veteran consultation rates for mental health care and with audiologists, speech therapists or occupational therapists among both sexes were double to triple those of the Canadian general population. Among veterans, males reported lower rates of unmet needs compared with females.


Veterans had similar rates of access to a regular medical doctor and higher rates of use compared with other Canadians. However, these may be comparatively low, given previous findings on higher rates of disability and some chronic conditions among veterans. Noted differences between males and females highlight the importance of research and services that account for sex and gender. The extent to which health care needs explain health care use and barriers to care requires further research.


Veterans, health care, health care accessibility, comparative study, sex factors

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x202100300002-eng


Access to health care is an important aspect of supporting health, as well as of preventing work-related disability.Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces have been found to have a higher prevalence of many health conditions and self-reported disability, compared with the Canadian general population. For example, previous comparisons of veterans and the Canadian general population using the Life After Service Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey have indicated that Regular Force veterans have higher rates of chronic physical health problems than the Canadian general population, including back pain, hearing loss and arthritis. Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, have also been found to be more prevalent in veterans when comparing these two data sources. Disability rates among veterans are almost three times those of the Canadian general population; similarly, work-related disability is also more common among veterans than the general population. [Full article]


Mary Beth MacLean (Marybeth.maclean@Canada.ca) is with the Research Directorate, Veterans Affairs Canada, Charlottetown, P.E.I. and Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Jill Sweet is with the Research Directorate, Veterans Affairs Canada, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Alyson Mahar is with Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sarah Gould is with Veterans Affairs Canada, Charlottetown, P.E.I. and School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Amy L. Hall is with the Research Directorate, Veterans Affairs Canada, Charlottetown, P.E.I.


What is already known on this subject?

  • Veterans have a greater prevalence of various chronic health conditions, including mental and physical conditions, compared with the Canadian general population.
  • Little is known about veteran health care use and access compared with the Canadian general population.

What does this study add?

  • Use rates for both general health and mental health care differed between veterans and the general population.
  • Differences were also observed between male and female veterans. This is important, since sex-disaggregated analyses of this population have been uncommon to date.
  • Barriers to health care service access and use in this population require further investigation.

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