The researchers then examined meticulously detailed medical records kept by the Pension Bureau the precursor to today's Department of Veterans Affairs for the purposes of ascertaining whether the veterans were eligible for age- and disability-related benefits as they aged. In particular, Costa and Kahn looked at whether the men experienced medical conditions with well-documented links to stress, such as arteriosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
Finally, they scoured U.S. Census records from 1850 to 1930 for details of the veterans' lives as they unfolded. The researchers were especially interested in the veterans' economic situation and martial status, two variables that have been shown to have a significant effect on an individual's health.
Even after adjusting for these factors, Costa and Kahn found that veterans from companies lacking in cohesion were six times more likely than peers from cohesive companies to suffer from arteriolosclerosis or to have heart attacks or strokes by their late 50s or early 60s.
When translated into total lifespan, the toll was considerable. Of the veterans who died from heart disease or stroke, men who served in an uncohesive company lived one year and four months less than men from a cohesive company.
Costa and Kahn admit they're not sure of the mechanism behind camaraderie's long-term protective influence, but they suspect social bonds somehow moderate stress hormones released either during or after intense battles.
"It may be that you don't have the same release of stress hormones when you go into battle with comrades o
|Contact: Meg Sullivan|
University of California - Los Angeles