In addition to the cancer incidence study, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Australia completed a Mortality Study of Korea Veterans in 2003 and a Health Study in 2004.

The 2003 study reveals that more than half the army vets from the Korean War were dead. Overall, Korea War veterans from the three services had a 21 per cent higher mortality rate than the general population, comprised of Australian males about the same age as the veterans. The death rate from cancer of army veterans was 31 per cent higher than the general population.

Air force and navy personnel were not heavily impacted with illnesses by the Korean War. Air force personnel had a significantly lower mortality rate than the general population with the navy 11 per cent higher than the control population.

The report says that death from cancer from unknown primary site was elevated by 51 per cent. (Don’t know what unknown primary site is.)

Strength of study: Almost the total number of veterans was identified.

Weakness of study: Since 5.1 per cent of veterans could not be located there was probably under reporting of mortality.

The Korea Veterans’ Health Study, released in December 2005

  1. Australian vets drink and smoke more than control group
  2. 33 per cent meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder
  3. 31 per cent meet criteria for anxiety and 24  per cent meet criteria for depression
  4. 15 medical conditions appear 1.5 to 3.0 times more frequently to Korea veterans. They include asthma, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack or angina, rapid or irregular heart beat, diabetes, liver disease, arthritis, kidney disease, melanoma, other skin cancer, stomach, duodenal ulcer, partial or complete blindness (not corrected by glasses), and partial or complete deafness.

According to the study, Korea veterans are more likely to have been hospitalized in the last 12 months and had increased psychological and physical ill health over the control.

The main contributor to ill health: combat experience

Veterans experiencing heavy combat were 15 times more likely to meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression than soldiers who reported no combat experience. Soldiers who went to Korea after the ceasefire reported a lower rate of anxiety and stress.

Rank also played a role. Private soldiers were more likely to suffer from stress and depression than NCOs. Officers fared better than both groups.

Veterans who were 20-years of age or younger at the time of deployment were later to have reported higher anxiety and more drinking problems than veterans who were 31-years of age and older at the time of deployment.

Soldiers who had fewer years of service before deployment, who had served the full posting of one year, were also more likely to suffer from stress and depression.

1. Veterans were more healthy than the normal population at the time of the Korean War but today psychological and physical health has deteriorated and they are less healthy.
2. The study suggests that the true magnitude from war service on health has been underestimated.
3. Some of the cancer can be explained by excessive smoking but much of it can’t.
4. Excessive alcohol consumption explains some of the mortality of Korea veterans.
5. More than 50 years after the war less than 45 per cent of the veterans are still alive.