Key UK Veterans Demographics


Who are UK Veterans?

A UK Veteran is anyone who has served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) or Merchant Mariners and have been on duty during a legally defined military operation, be it for one day or on a much more long-term basis. In terms of demographic, around 60% of UK veterans are aged 65 and over, with 40% between the ages of 16 and 64.


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60% of the UK’s Veteran Population is of retirement age or above (Image courtesy of Office for Veterans’ Affairs)


How Many UK Veterans are there?

A 2007 study carried out by King’s College London estimated around 4.8 million veterans living in private residential households across the UK. In England, this figure was roughly 3.9 million. However, they predicted that due to the ageing veteran population, the figures would decline from around 4.8 million to 3.1 million by 2020. According to more recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the estimated total of veterans living in Great Britain in 2017 was 2.4 million.


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There are 2.4 million veterans residing in Great Britain (Image courtesy of Office for Veterans’ Affairs)


By 2028, the Ministry of Defence projects that there will be approximately 1.6 million UK Armed Forces veterans living in Great Britain. For every 80 of these veterans, they predict that 35 will be of working age (16-64 years), and 45 veterans will be of retirement age (65+ years). They predict that the veterans will be predominantly male (70) and 10 will be female. Although the total number of veterans living in Great Britain is set to decrease in the coming 10 years, the percentage of working age veterans will increase by 7% between 2016 and 2028. The volume of female veterans is also forecasted to increase by 3% over the same period.



Where do UK Veterans Live?

The Ministry of Defence released a report showing the living areas which are more densely populated by veterans. They revealed that over one-third of Armed Forces pension recipients live in the South East or South West of England. However, in contrast to the classic retirement spots favoured by many, Bournemouth and Eastbourne are not typical residential spots for veterans. Interestingly, many choose to reside near their former military base. As such, Royal Navy veterans tended to live in Portsmouth or Gosport (7,760 veterans) or Plymouth (6,996). Army veterans, on the other hand, tended to live across Wiltshire, known as the home county of the Army (15,338 veterans). Many RAF veterans have gravitated towards Lincolnshire in which 17,292 veterans make up over 2% of the overall population of the entire county. Other popular residential areas for veterans include Cornwall, Fife and County Durham. By contrast, very few veterans live in London. Veterans make up less than 0.1% of London’s population with under 9,000 veterans in total.


How Many UK Veterans Live Abroad?

Australia is the country most densely populated by ex-patriate UK veterans with about 2,224 veteran recipients calling the country home. Spain, a popular retirement favourite for many Brits, is home to about 439 veteran recipients.


Average Household Income for a UK Army Veteran

Depending on the rank, those employed by the British Army or other UK Royal Armed Forces could be earning anywhere between £20,200 (for privates) to £120,700 (for Generals) annually, according to 2020 data.



Statistics from the Annual Population Survey (2017) show that 76% of veterans are home-owners or have a mortgage. Additionally, they showed that veterans are just as likely to have bought their own home as non-veterans.


housing for vets

76% of veterans own their own house or have a mortgage (Image courtesy of Office for Veterans’ Affairs)


Housing Support

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has implemented various measures to make social housing more accessible for veterans. They work to change the law so that Service personnel who are seriously injured are given high priority for social housing by local authorities.


Homelessness in the Veteran Community

Only a small minority of veterans become homeless. Data from 2014 showed that an estimated 3% to 6% of Armed Forces veterans were sleeping rough in the UK. According to data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) Greater London annual, of the homeless population in the UK, the percentage who were UK nationals and former Armed Forces workers dropped from 3% in 2017/2018 to 2% in 2018/2019. The government-supported Homeless Reduction Act of 2017 works towards an end of rough sleeping. As part of this, the Military of Defence, along with other public authorities, is asked to refer Service Leavers at risk of homelessness to the local housing authority of their choice.


Employment for UK Veterans


According to the 2017 Annual Population Survey, 79% of working age veterans are employed and are just as likely to be employed as non-veterans. Similarly, 92% of working age veterans have a qualification and are as likely to have a qualification as non-veterans.

It is estimated that 86% of service leavers who used the CTP in 2018/19 were employed within six months of leaving the Armed Forces, with a further 8% either in full-time education, training or not actively looking for work.


career transition

86% of service leavers using the Career Transition Partnership between 2018 and 2019 found employment within six months (Image courtesy of Office for Veterans’ Affairs)


Employment Opportunities for Veterans

UK Veterans returning from service are encouraged, if they are able, to continue to work not simply for financial reasons but also to keep them occupied and boost mental wellbeing. Armed Forces’ roles typically lead to a range of transferable skills which are desirable in many different sectors. However, it can sometimes be challenging to return to civilian life. Sometimes it is difficult to identify which military skills can be transferable to a working environment. In some cases, jobs may require industry-specific skills. Apprenticeships and short courses can be a good option to prepare for these types of roles.


Top Industries for UK Veterans

One of the most highly recommended sectors for veterans are skilled trades as it requires many of the same skills used in the military. Thus, roles such as technicians, electricians, mechanics and plumbers could be suitable. Invariably, these roles also involve financial support for training. Specific roles such as aircraft mechanic or car mechanic could be perfect for former RAF employees or car mechanics, respectively.

Engineering Roles

Many undergo some form of engineering training during their military experience. Consequently, careers in this sector could be a good option when leaving the Armed Forces. In particular, aerospace and defence manufacturers often seek out veterans with engineering skills as they have experience with the specific equipment.


Veterans often have experience assisting sick or wounded military personnel during their career in the armed forces. As such, a career in the healthcare sector is often the chosen path for veterans. With specific training and education, veterans could be employed in this sector within two years. These can include anything from occupation therapy assistant to nurse to dental technician.


Support from the government is often provided for veterans looking to break into the education sector. Building on experience of mentoring or training, many find that a career in teaching is a natural progression.


Support Offers for Veterans Seeking Employment

There are many government-supported schemes available for veterans. The Military of Defence directly funds employment support through their Career Transition Partnership (CTP) service. This free service supports Armed Forces Leavers for two years after they are discharged. It helps veterans to recognise their skill set and how it may transfer to specific careers.

There is also support available for employers via the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). Through this scheme, they reward employers who support the Armed Forces. They give Bronze, Silver and Gold awards to employer organisations who actively support the Defence and Armed Forces communities.

Statistics show that 86% of service leavers who used the Career Transition Partnership in 2018/2019 were employed within six months of leaving the Armed Forces. A further 9% were in full-time education, training or not actively seeking employment.


Veteran Health


Prevalence of Illness in Veterans

When it comes to general health, statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2017 report no differences between veterans and non-veterans. However it is widely reported that veterans are more vulnerable to mental health issues. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is highly prevalent in UK Service Personnel and veterans. A study by KCMHR estimated that the overall rate of probable PTSD for current and ex-serving regular military personnel was 6% in the 2014/2016. This is a 2% increase from earlier cohorts, meaning that either PTSD is becoming more prevalent, or we are becoming more aware. As a comparison, the rate of PTSD in the civilian population is 4.4%. Various government bodies and charities are heavily committed to investigating death, especially suicide, in veterans in order to provide further support for current and future employees of the Armed Forces.

General Healthcare for Veterans

The NHS is largely responsible for providing veteran healthcare, including the provision of mental health support. In addition to all the services available to the general population, there are many specialist services specifically for veterans. These include priority access to NHS secondary care for service-related conditions. As of February 2020, there were 700 accredited practices specifically designed for GP practices to understand the needs of veterans and their families.

Mental Health Services for Veterans

There are two specific veteran mental health services provided by the NHS. One, the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) provides treatment services encompassing identifying early signs of mental health problems to full therapeutic treatment for complex mental health difficulties. The other, the Veterans Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (VMH TILS), provides intensive care and holistic treatment for veterans and their families to support the most complex cases.


Veterans and the Justice System


Offender Management Statistics, compiled by the Ministry of Justice, l]proved that those who have been in the Armed Forces are no more likely to commit criminal offences than civilians. In fact, they are less likely than the general population to commit a crime. Former members of the Armed Forces only accounted for 3% of those entering prisons in England and Wales in 2019.

Those veterans who do find themselves in prison have support from the UK government including helping them to improve their lives once they return to the community. The Military of Defence stays in contact with prison governors in order to ensure appropriate support and potential additional support from the Veterans’ Welfare Service. It helps to specialise their rehabilitation needs and point them in the right direction of all the resources available to them, including from specific charities.