Background: Occupation is a significant factor affecting life, health and well-being. Long-term military service is a unique career path that may have an influence on life expectancy, even after excluding obvious risks such as battlefield mortality. However, it remains unclear what the effects of a military career are on the life trajectory of personnel after retiring from service. This study compared life expectancy among retired military personnel (RMP) to their sex and birth cohort-specific reference populations. Methods: For this historical cohort study, we collected data on the sex, year of birth, year of death, time in service, and rank at end of service for 4862 Israeli RMPs. Data on reference populations were provided by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics by birth decade from 1900 to 1989. We calculated the difference between each individual RMP's age at death and the "expected" age at death, based on sex and birth cohort-specific means in the reference populations. Results: Overall, 67.9 % of RMPs lived longer than average relative to their sex-specific birth cohort. This difference in life expectancy was more pronounced among women than among men. There was a significant trend of increasing differences between RMP males and reference males over time (P < 0.002), whereas no significant trend was identified among females. Length of service and rank were not associated with relative longevity for RMPs. Conclusions: The mechanism of the protective effect of military service on life expectancy remains unknown, but our findings indicate that it affects men and women differently, with women being more likely to benefit from the potential protective effect of military service. The healthy worker effect is known to vary from one occupation to another, and to the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to quantify the magnitude of the healthy worker effect among career military servicemen and women.
- Life expectancy
- Military personnel