FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Almost a third of current or
former U.S. military service members who were ever married have had
affairs -- twice the rate of the general population, a new study
It's not clear, however, whether serving in the military played
any role in the higher rate of infidelity.
The findings do suggest that service members, veterans and their
spouses may need special care and counseling, said study author
Andrew S. London, chair of sociology at Syracuse University.
"This shows the need for interventions and programs that might assist military families that are grappling with these issues," London said. "In some ways, it validates the concerns of some spouses left behind and increases our understanding of the problems that veterans and their families might face."
The study, which London said is one of the most extensive of its
kind, examined the results of a national survey -- the National
Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) -- that was taken in 1992.
The 3,121 participants were aged 18 to 59; 2,308 had ever been
married. "Although [the data] is now two decades old, the NHSLS is
one of the few national data sets that includes questions about
whether respondents have ever served in the military, had
extramarital sex, and marital and divorce history," London
The researchers focused on active-duty service members and
veterans, both men and women, who were married or had been married.
They'd served during peacetime and wars.
Almost a third of them (32 percent) said they'd had sexual
affairs outside marriage, about twice the rate of other married
people (16.8 percent).
It's not clear when the service members and veterans had the
affairs. And the research doesn't prove that military service
causes affairs, London said. One possibility is that something in
the respondents' backgrounds made them more likely to join the
and to have affairs, he said. For example, people who like to
take risks may be attracted to serving in the military
and to having affairs, he said.
If there is a connection between military service and the
affairs, he said, it may have something to do with separation from
spouses, or "there may be something in military cultures that
supports going to commercial sex workers."
The researchers weren't able to study whether spouses of service
members or veterans had more affairs of their own.
The findings are scheduled to be presented Monday at the
American Sociological Association annual meeting in Las Vegas.
Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as
preliminary, because it has not gone through the peer-review
process required of studies that are published in medical
Keith Armstrong, director of couples and family therapy at the
San Francisco VA Medical Center, said the study appears to be
well-done, but doesn't account for factors like whether length of
deployment translates into more infidelity.
As for reasons to explain the affairs, he said the stress of
military service can make people seek bonds with others,
potentially leading to infidelity.
The research, Armstrong said, "allows us to dig deeper. The more
we understand, the better we can look at which relationships are at
high risk for infidelity and what sorts of interventions we can
provide." Counselors, he added, can help couples increase
communication and preserve the bond between them.
However, he said, "even with the best interventions, divorce is
a fact of life. We're not going to be able to fix every
relationship, and it's naive to think we could. Some relationships
are better off ending."
For more about
divorce, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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