Introduction: There have been few epidemiological studies on the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic on the veteran population, other than on specific aspects such as mental health, and none in the UK. We used data from the Trends in Scottish Veterans Health cohort to explore the risk of hospitalisation and death associated with COVID-19 in veterans resident in Scotland in comparison with matched non-veterans. Methods: Retrospective cohort study of 71 000 veterans and a comparison group of 230 000 non-veterans matched for age, sex and geography, using Cox proportional hazard analysis to explore the risk of hospitalisation with COVID-19 and COVID-19-associated death overall and by birth cohort, sex and length of military service. Results: Between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021, 564 (0.79%) veterans had been hospitalised with COVID-19 compared with 1728 (0.75%) non-veterans. The Cox model showed no significant difference overall, HR 0.99, 95% CIs 0.90 to 1.11, p=0.800. Subgroup analysis showed increased risk in older, short-serving (<20 weeks) Early Service Leavers (ESL). There was no overall difference in COVID-19-associated deaths, HR 0.99, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.23, p=0.993, but subgroup analysis showed a non-significant reduced risk of death in veterans aged 61–70 years, and a 38% higher risk in veterans aged over 70 years which almost reached statistical significance, p=0.054. This was only partially explained by socioeconomic factors and common comorbidities, although we had no data on domestic circumstances or care home residence. Conclusions: Overall, military service was not a risk factor for either hospitalisation or death associated with COVID-19. Older ESLs were at increased risk compared with non-veterans, but military service is unlikely to have been causal. The risk of death was increased in the oldest veterans and further studies are needed to explain this once census data become available for linkage.


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Bergman, B., Mackay, D. & Pell, J. 2024, 'The impact of COVID-19 on the veteran population: evidence from the Trends in Scottish Veterans Health study', BMJ Military Health. https://doi.org/10.1136/military-2024-002677

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Last updated: 20 May 2024
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