This Comparative Literature Review was the first research project to involve collaboration between the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs of the United States of America (US) and Australia, and was funded by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The review aimed to gain an understanding of the differences and similarities between post-1990 military deployment contexts, health impacts and veterans’ health care systems in Australia and the US.
By reviewing and analysing existing research and publicly available data, the study found that:
The US deployed significantly more personnel to each of the conflicts. US personnel in the Gulf War were more likely to experience direct combat than Australian personnel. The US also maintained a longer presence in Somalia compared to Australia.
Overall rates of posttraumatic stress disorder were similar between Australia and the US. Prevalence estimates for US veterans of Iraq tended to be higher compared to Australian veterans, and prevalence estimates for Australian Somalia veterans appeared to be higher than in US veterans.
Gulf War veterans from both countries had a reduced risk of suicide compared with respective general populations. US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan had high estimated rates of suicidal ideation.
Estimates of multisymptom illness were lower for Australian Gulf War veterans compared to US Gulf War veterans.
Traumatic brain injury prevalence estimates in Australian Afghanistan/Iraq War veterans were at the low end of those reported in US studies.
The two countries’ healthcare systems were similar in range of services, focus on mental health, and increasing use of technology. The systems were different in method of service provision and financial structure.
This study was a preliminary overview covering a range of deployments and health and social outcomes. While it gives an accurate summary of the published literature, it did not test for the statistical significance of differences in health outcomes between different populations.