Female army veterans are taking their own lives at more than twice the rate of the Australian population, a landmark report has found.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's annual snapshot of military suicides showed 42 serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel died by suicide between 2016 and 2017.
That takes the number of certified suicides from 2001 to 2017 to 419.
Over half of those deaths (229) occurred among ex-serving personnel.
Ex-serving women were 115 per cent more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
Twenty-one female veterans have taken their lives since 2001.
It is the first time the institute has been able to report on suicides for female veterans due to historically low number of women in the defence force.
The number of female veterans grew to nearly 16,400 in 2017.
"Each year of data adds to the confidence in the results for female ex-serving ADF personnel. For this reason, suicide information for ex-serving females is reported for the first time," the report said.
The institute described these findings as "statistically significant".
The suicide rate for male veterans was also "consistently higher" than the general population.
The suicide rate for male veterans was 27 per 100,000 for males, compared to 15 per 100,000 for ex-serving women.
Ex-serving men were 18 per cent more likely to take their lives than the general population.
Conversely, the age-adjusted rate of suicide among serving men and men in the reserves was 48 per cent lower than the general population.
The proportion of veterans on anti-depressants was also higher than the general population.
Twenty per cent of veterans were dispensed antidepressants compared with 15 per cent of all Australians, adjusted for age and sex differences.
The research was commissioned by the Department of Veterans' Affairs in response to concerns about the rate of suicide in the veteran community.
It comes as calls intensify for a royal commission into veteran suicide.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with parents of six army veterans who took their own lives earlier this month, while a petition urging for the commission has clocked more than 260,000 signatures.
But Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester has said the money it would cost to hold a royal commission would be better spent on mental health.
The department has made significant changes to its processes in the wake of a string of damning reviews including allowing people to get treatment for mental health conditions earlier.
The full impact of these changes may not yet be reflected in the study population, the report said.
Department of Veterans' Affairs chief Liz Cosson vowed to walk away from the job if she could not improve ex-defence personnel's experiences with the agency.
But a Productivity Commission report recommended the Veterans Affairs department undergo "fundamental reform", as it was failing to work in the best interest of veterans and their families. The government has yet to respond.
If this story has raised issues for you, please call:
- Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling 1800 011 046, or openarms.gov.au
- ADF All-hours Support Line 1800 628 036
- Operation Life Online
- Lifeline 13 11 14, or lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, or suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Beyondblue Support Service 1300 22 4636, or beyondblue.org.au
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said 46 people had died by suicide, based on the 2018 AIHW report.