The Influence of Military Service on Aging

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

9 Scopus citations


Although military service was common among US men born during the first half of the twentieth century, it is rarely examined explicitly or taken into account as a control variable in aging research. The lack of scholarly attention to the influence of military service on aging is due, in part, to insufficient nationally-representative data on military service experiences. But, even the data that are available have been under-analyzed. Therefore, the primary aim of this chapter is to highlight the military as a social force that shapes later-life outcomes. We first examine the extent to which military service is a “hidden variable” in aging research by: considering how cohort flow in relation to periods of war has altered the composition of the older adult population in the US and presenting the findings of a systematic search of publications in selected gerontology journals from 1980 through 2013. Then, we review the mechanisms through which military service influences the aging process, focusing particularly on selection into service, service-related experiences, and post-service access to benefits. This provides a foundation for considering what is known about military service and various life-course outcomes, including educational attainment, employment, marriage, civic engagement, health, and mortality, among those who served in particular wars. We conclude with some observations about studying the impact of military service on aging, including an integrated overview of available data, methodological challenges, and potential directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Aging and the Social Sciences, Eighth Edition
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780124172357
ISBN (Print)9780124172852
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Cohort flow
  • Life course turning points
  • Military
  • Selection
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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