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

experienced on a battlefield. The beauty of the Civil War data is it lets us get as close to a randomized, experimental study of extreme stress and social networks as you can ethically get."

The study also takes advantage of record-keeping quirks unique to the era. To ensure delivery of the country's earliest comprehensive benefits for veterans, the Pension Bureau tracked the veterans to their death. Because neither the Pension Bureau's records nor corresponding U.S. Census data is protected by the kinds of privacy safeguards that U.S. citizens now enjoy, the researchers were able to reconstruct a vivid picture of the types of conditions under which the men served and how they fared as they aged.

Moreover, Civil War soldiers who joined one company stayed with that company for their entire tour of duty. Only in very rare cases did companies add new soldiers as old ones were injured or killed. This distinction facilitated tracking the effects of cohesion. By contrast, soldiers repeatedly cycled in and out of companies during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, infinitely complicating such research.

Even though the findings may date from a 145-year-old conflict, the researchers hope they will shed light on contemporary problems.

"Now that we're in the middle of two long-term wars, it's really important to understand what effect combat has on men's long-term health," Costa said. "If we can find strategies for minimizing the long-term toll of the experience on these brave people, we really need to do so."


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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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