Headline data

armedforcesPopulation Size

There is no definitive estimate of the ex-service community in Gateshead. Estimates are based on survey data, and the surveys do not all record the full ex-service community (veterans and dependents).

Veterans + Serving Members: In 2012, a survey of Gateshead people suggested there may have been 10,300 people (6.5% aged 18+) who were either veterans or who were serving at the time in the armed forces.[1]

Veterans + Dependents: The Royal British Legion (RBL) conducted a UK Household Survey of the Ex-Service Community in 2014. 20,698 people were interviewed across the UK and 2,121 were in the ex-service community. The survey identified that 9.2% of the population were veterans or their dependents (4.4% veterans, 3.2% dependent adults, 1.5% dependent children). By applying this proportion to Gateshead's 2018 population estimates, it is estimated that there may be more than 18,600 people making up the ex-service community in Gateshead. This includes more than 8,900 veterans, almost 6,500 adult dependents (aged 16+) and more than 3,000 children (aged 0 to 15).[2]

Veterans Only: The Annual Population Survey is undertaken with a sample of around 290,000 people across the UK and is therefore the most comprehensive national survey on veterans that is available. The 2017 survey indicated that 4.7% of respondents identified as a veteran. By applying this proportion to Gateshead's 2018 population estimates, it is estimated that there may be more than 7,800 people who are veterans in Gateshead.[3]

hospitalGP practices can record veteran status, but practice registers are not always complete. In Gateshead, 7,617 veterans were recorded on practice registers. Of 30 GP practices across Gateshead, the GP practices with the largest numbers of veterans were Central Gateshead Medical Group (921), Birtley Medical Group (787) and St. Albans Medical Group in Felling (632).[4]

The 2012 survey identified areas of Gateshead where there were higher proportions of residents who were either veterans or who were serving at the time in the armed forces. The wards with the highest proportions were Birtley, Felling and Dunston and Teams.[1]

Population Trend

The 2014 RBL Survey found that the ex-service community had declined by 42% since 2005.[2] The Annual Population Survey was used to project forward the number of veterans (only) in the UK to 2028. Between 2016 and 2028 there is projected to be a 35% decrease.[5]


oldermaleVeterans are significantly more likely to be male (89%) than non-veterans (47%).[3] However, looking at the ex-service community (veterans and their dependents) as a whole, the gender split is much closer to the general population profile at 53% men and 47% women.[2]

There is a significantly higher proportion of veterans who are aged 75+ (47%) than non-veterans (8%).[3] As a whole, 46% of the ex-service community are aged 75+.[2]

bme99% of veterans are white and just 1% are from a BME community compared with 92% of non-veterans who are white and 8% from a BME community.[3] The ex-service community as a whole shows a similar pattern, with 98% white and 2% from a BME community.[2]


In the Annual Population Survey there was no difference between veteran's and non-veteran's overall self-reported general health. 35% of both veterans and non-veterans of working age reported they were in very good health. Of veterans aged 65+, 18% were in very good health compared to 20% of non-veterans of the same age.[3]

heartSimilarly, there was no significant difference in the impact of health conditions, with 26% of working age veterans stating that yes, health problems limited their activity and 24% of non-veterans saying the same. At age 65+ the gap is slightly wider, with 34% of veterans stating yes compared to 28% of non-veterans.[3]

Both veterans and non-veterans (of all ages) reported the same top-three health conditions as:[3]

  • Heart, blood pressure or circulatory related conditions (Veterans 31% / Non-veterans 32%)
  • Leg or feet related conditions (Veterans 33% / Non-veterans 25%)
  • Back or neck related conditions (Veterans 30% / Non-veterans 23%)

In June 2019, 8.6% of veterans on Gateshead GP practice registers had COPD.[4] This compares with the overall population rate of 2.4%.[6] 9.5% of veterans on Gateshead GP practice registers had asthma.[4] This compares with the overall population rate for NewcastleGateshead CCG area of 6.1%.[6] (See also: Respiratory disease)

18.5% of veterans on Gateshead GP practice registers were obese.[4] This compares with the overall population rate for NewcastleGateshead CCG area of 11.1%.[7] (See also: Obesity and excess weight)

ear23% of veterans aged 65+ reported difficulty in hearing compared with 16% of non-veterans (though this was not statistically significantly different) and only 10% of veterans of working age compared with 7% of non-veterans.[3] The 2014 RBL survey also showed a higher proportion of veterans with hearing problems. The survey found veterans under the age of 75 were around three and a half times more likely than the general population to report hearing problems (7% vs 2%). 26% of those with hearing problems attributed it to their time in the armed forces.[2] (See also: Sensory disabilities)

smokingThere was no significant difference found between the proportion of working age veterans currently smoking (37%) and non-veterans (40%). Similarly for ages 65+ there was no difference between veterans (12%) and non-veterans (14%).[3] In June 2019, Gateshead's GP practice registers recorded 12% of veterans of all ages as smoking.[4] However, veterans were found to be significantly more likely to have smoked in the past.[3] (See also: Smoking)

Working age veterans who have smoked in the past are significantly less likely to state they are in very good health (28%) than those that have never smoked at all (43%). The gap remains at retirement age, with 15% who have smoked in the past stating they are very good health compared to 24% of those who have never smoked. Similarly, veterans who are former smokers are significantly more likely to have health problems that last more than a year than those who have never smoked.[3]

alcoholJust 1% of veterans reported having alcohol problems, but 33% of those that did attributed it to their time in the armed forces.[2] Despite the small proportion of veterans self reporting alcohol problems, the Armed Forces Outreach Service and Walking With the Wounded, which both operate within the North East, highlight that alcohol is a factor in 55% to 60% of referrals to their services. (See also: Alcohol misuse)

Gateshead's Evolve service had 23 referrals of veterans for drug (13) or alcohol (10) treatment in 2019. Between 2017 and 2019 there were 60 referrals. None of these referrals were re-presentations.[8]

mentalhealthIn the 2014 national RBL survey, 8% of veterans said they suffered from some form of mental illness, and 27% of those attributed it to their time in the armed forces. 6% said they had depression, 2% said anxiety, and 2% PTSD/combat stress. Of those who said PTSD/combat stress, 76% attributed this to their time in the armed forces.[2] (See also: Mental and behavioural disorders)

The Annual Population Survey had a similar proportion of veterans reporting mental health problems, with 10% of those of working age and 3% of those aged 65+. Both age groups were similar to the equivalent non-veteran population.[3]

The proportion of veterans recorded as having depression on Gateshead's GP practice registers was much higher than in the RBL survey at 24%.[4] This compares with the overall rate in NewcastleGateshead CCG area of 9%.[9]

Research by Manchester University found that suicide was less common amongst veterans than within the general population, except for one group: young early Service leavers.[10] (See also: Self harm and suicide)

20% of the ex-service community have some form of caring responsibility.[2] In the last Census from 2011, there were 13% of the overall population who provided unpaid care. (See also: Carers)

Relationships/Social Isolation

Case Study ManReporting on a variety of difficulties experienced in the last year, the 2014 RBL survey highlighted that 42% had had some difficulty within the last year. The top issue (out of 12) was relationship/isolation difficulties, with 16% of the ex-service community experiencing this issue.[2]

A further study by the RBL on Social Isolation and Loneliness in 2018 found that 25% of those surveyed (both serving and ex-service personnel) said they felt lonely and socially isolated either 'always' or 'often'. The most common causes of this were cited as 'exiting the armed forces' (51%), 'moving to a new area' (50%) and 'bereavement' (45%). 'Relationship break-up/divorce' was also cited as big issue, which may well be due to the need for Service personnel to be deployed away from their families and friends for long periods. Extracting the results for veterans only found that 65% said that 'exiting the forces' caused them to feel lonely and/or socially isolated.[11]

Comments from participants of the RBL study on Social Isolation and Loneliness highlight a culture of self-reliance in the Armed Forces. One army leaver said "In the army loneliness is seen as a personal weakness", and another veteran said "Self sufficiency is the focus. If you can't help yourself, it's as though you have failed - and they won't ask for help because they are too proud.'[11]

A study by Northumbria University Newcastle in 2018, Understanding Unique Factors of Social Isolation and Loneliness of Military Veterans, brought together a panel of 'experts' - veterans or those working with veterans. The expert panel compared military transition to other life events such as motherhood, retirement, etc. that increase the risk of social isolation and loneliness. They expressed the need to improve emotional resilience not just by focusing on social participation, but through psychological adjustment during transition. The panel viewed social prescribing as a useful tool, but said technology should be seen as a useful tool for connecting people rather than an 'end goal' or replacement for face to face contact. The panel also viewed transportation as an important element of accessing social isolation and loneliness programmes and activities.[12]

Employment and Education

The Annual Population Survey found no difference in the employment status of veterans and non-veterans. 79% of both veterans and non-veterans were in employment, 18% of both were economically inactive, and 3% of both were unemployed.[3] (See also: Economy)

Working age veterans (4%) were significantly less likely than non-veterans of the same age (21%) to visit a job centre when looking for work. It is not clear why this is the case.[3]

workVeterans are significantly more likely to work as 'Process, Plant and Machine Operatives' (15%) than non-veterans (10%), and less likely to be 'Managers and Senior Officials' (12% vs 15%) or in 'Professional Occupations' (15% vs 21%).[3]

Veterans are significantly less likely to have a degree (or equivalent) as their highest level of qualification (21%) than non-veterans (30%).[3] (See also: Education)


housingThe proportion of veterans owning (outright or with a mortgage) their home (76%) is similar to the non-veteran average (78%). Conversely, the proportion of veterans renting (23%) is therefore similar to non-veterans (21%).[3] (See also: Housing)

8% of ex-service community households said they had experienced housing difficulties in the past year (to 2014), with the majority related to house or garden maintenance. 7% said house or garden maintenance was an issue, just 1% said poor housing/inappropriate housing for their needs, and 1% said they had difficulty getting a council housing place for accommodation from a housing association.[2] However, in 2018/19, of the 149 Gateshead referrals to the Armed Forces Outreach Service, the biggest area of support was around difficulties in accessing suitable accommodation interlinked with financial needs such as debt and welfare benefits.[13]


moneyIn the 2014 RBL survey, 3% of ex-service community households reported difficulties through getting into debt. The survey report also quoted from the Poverty and Social Inclusion Exclusion in the UK 2012 report where 7% of the ex-service community said their household has been in arrears in the last 12 months. Arrears are more likely to be reported in households with dependent children, and particularly larger households of four or more or where the parents have divorced or separated.[2]

[1] Gateshead Residents Survey, Gateshead Council, 2012

[2] UK Household Survey of the Ex-Service Community 2014, Royal British Legion (https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/docs/default-source/campaigns-policy-and-research/rbl_household_survey_report.pdf?sfvrsn=5bcbae4f_4)

[3] Annual Population Survey: UK Armed Forces Veterans Residing in Great Britain, 2017, Ministry of Defence, Published 31 Jan 2019 (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/annual-population-survey-uk-armed-forces-veterans-residing-in-great-britain-2017)

[4] NHS North of England Commissioning Support, Military Veterans in Gateshead, June 2019

[5] Population Projections: UK Armed Forces Veterans Residing in Great Britain, 2016 to 2028, Published 10 Jan 2019 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/population-projections-uk-armed-forces-veterans-residing-in-great-britain-2016-to-2028)

[6] QOF Prevalence, NHS Digital 2017/18 (INHALE - Interactive Health Atlas of Lung conditions in England website)

[7] National GP Practice Profiles, QOF, NHS Digital, 2017/18 (National GP Practice Profiles)

[8] Kapur et al. Suicide after Leaving the UK Armed Forces - A Cohort Study. Manchester University. PLoS Med 6(3) 2009

[9] NHS Digital, Quality Outcomes Framework Prevalence of Depression, 2017/18 (Common Mental Health Disorders website)

[10] Gateshead Evolve Service, 2019

[11] Loneliness and Social Isolation in the Armed Forces Community, Royal British Legion, 2018 (https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/docs/default-source/campaigns-policy-and-research/social_isolation_report_full.pdf?sfvrsn=1212fbbe_0)

[12] Understanding Unique Factors of Social Isolation and Loneliness of Military Veterans: A Delphi Study, Northumbria University Newcastle, 2018

[13] Gateshead Armed Forces Outreach Service, 2018/19

Last modified on 6th March 2020

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