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Giving New Meaning to “Veterans’ Affairs”

Military service puts people at risk for a host of problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, violence, substance abuse, depression, compulsive gambling and insomnia. Now researchers add to that list a risk many wouldn’t anticipate: a greater likelihood of cheating.

After analyzing data from a 1992 national survey, Andrew S. London, chair of the sociology department and a sociology professor at Syracuse University, made the following findings:

•    Military veterans are about twice as likely to have extramarital sex as married non-veterans (32 percent compared to 16.8 percent).
•    Veterans were nearly 10 percent more likely to have gotten divorced than non-veterans (38.5 percent compared to 28.9 percent).
•    Those veterans who engaged in extramarital sex were 2.3 times more likely to be divorced.

While the study didn’t include enough women to draw definitive conclusions, researchers believe these findings may apply to women veterans as well.

“The results of this study provide robust evidence that veteran status was strongly associated with an increased likelihood of extramarital sex and divorce – at least among men – and suggest that the odds of extramarital sex and divorce might also be elevated among female veterans,” said London.

It is tempting to blame military service for the increased risk of infidelity, assuming that prolonged deployments and the stresses of war put a strain on marriages, but researchers cautioned against jumping to such conclusions.

“We do not know from these data whether the extramarital sex occurred prior to, during, or after the conclusion of the respondent’s military service, and we do not know the military service status of spouses,” London noted.

Military service has a dramatic impact on all areas of life for military personnel and their families, including their sex lives. Rather than attempting to shame or blame military veterans who cheat, researchers hope that this research aids in the treatment of any underlying issues that contribute to infidelity. The people who serve our country need additional support to maintain the relationships that are critically important for their continued health and well-being.

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