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Battlefield camaraderie yields long-term dividends for veterans, study finds
Date:2/18/2010

The benefits of wartime camaraderie extend far beyond the battlefield, a new UCLA study of U.S. Civil War veterans suggests.

Veterans who served in military units characterized by a strong esprit de corps were much less likely decades later to die of a stroke or heart condition than veterans from less cohesive companies, two UCLA economists have found.

"On the battlefield, you'd expect your buddy to have your back," said Dora Kosta, the study's lead author and a UCLA professor of economics. "But the fact that camaraderie provides a protective effect that endures long after the war has ended is a new and surprising finding."

"We're not sure how it works, but somehow, being armed with close social bonds in the extremely stressful situation of battlefield combat has a protective effect that continues long after the fighting has ended," said Matthew Kahn, the study's co-author and a fellow UCLA economics professor. "Men who went into battle with this emotional armor were much less likely in their late 50s and early 60s to fall victim to stress-related illnesses."

The study, which tracked the veterans for up to 68 years, constitutes the first long-term look at the effect of unit cohesion on soldiers' mortality and health at older ages. It is also one of the longest-running studies of the effect of human social bonds on extreme stress. The findings appear in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Demography, which is expected to ship Feb. 19 to subscribers.

Drawing on data amassed by the University of Chicago's Center for Population Economics, Costa and Kahn looked at records for more than 35,000 Union veterans who served between 1861 and 1865 in 303 infantry companies. The economists first determined how many men each company lost, reasoning that the companies with the most losses also experienced the most stress.

They also figured out whether the veterans served with
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Contact: Meg Sullivan
msullivan@support.ucla.edu
310-825-1046
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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