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Lengthy deployments raise divorce rate, study finds

It seems like a no-brainer: a year or more spent away from your spouse in a high-stress, high-risk environment raises the likelihood of divorce. However, many previous studies on the correlation between lengthy military deployments and divorce found that not to be the case and, in fact, the opposite to be true – that deployments may actually lower the risk of divorce.

According a new study, however, deployments do contribute to a higher divorce rate, especially if service members are deployed to an active combat zone for 12 months or more. Further, the study found that couples that married prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks were more likely to divorce after deployment than couples that married after 2001. Researchers theorize that this is because the U.S. was at war almost immediately after 9/11 and has remained at war since, so military couples that married during that time period entered into marriage with the awareness that a lengthy deployment was likely to occur.

However, those factors were not necessary for service members and their spouses to experience a greater occurrence of divorce. The study found that the divorce rate rose in correlation to the length of deployment, regardless of whether the service member was stationed in a warzone or if the couple was married before or after 2001. Interestingly, divorces were more likely when it was the wife that was deployed and less likely when the couple had children.

The study, which was conducted by the RAND Corporation on behalf of the Defense Department, purports to be the largest of its kind, examining more than 460,000 service members that got married while serving in the military between 1999 and 2008.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, “Study finds more divorce after longer deployments,” Gretel C. Kovach, Sept. 3, 2013

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