According to a report from the Pentagon, the rate of divorce among members of the armed forces held steady in 2007, at 3.3 percent. Considering that marriages can be under considerable stress due to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this can be somewhat surprising.
Some veterans have questioned if the figures are accurate, but defense officials have cited recent efforts to support couples enduring long separations and hardships due to the wars.
According to the Associated Press, the divorce rate represents over 25,000 failed marriages among approximately 755,000 active duty troops throughout all branches of the military who are married from a period between October 1, 2006 and October 1, 2007.
According to the Defense Department’s data, the Army, which is the branch with the largest number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a 3.2 percent rate of divorce, which is unchanged from the previous year. That percentage represents 8,748 divorcees among approximately 275,000 married troops.
Army couples had to deal with extended separations due to tours of duty lasting 15 months instead of 12 months. Longer deployments and multiple tours have taken the blame for stresses on military couples.
The biggest exception to the data is the divorce rate among female troops. Over the past several years, women in the military have had twice as many marriages fail as men. The data did not provide firm numbers, but it appears that in 2007, eight percent of women in the service have divorced and 2.6 percent of men have divorced.
There is no system that can compare this rate to the rate among civilians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the general population’s divorce rate was 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2005, which was the most recent statistics available and the lowest rate since 1970.
According to Todd Bowers of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, there is a crushing effect on military marriages from the war, producing a rising number of breakups. However, he says, these are not being tracked because they are among people who are no longer in the service.