WASHINGTON — The toll for a nation long at war is evident in military homes: The divorce rate in the armed forces edged up again in the past year despite many programs to help struggling couples, and the rate now is a full percentage point higher than around the time of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
There were an estimated 27,312 divorces among roughly 765,000 married members of the active-duty Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, the Pentagon said Friday.
That's a divorce rate of about 3.6 percent for fiscal year 2009, compared with 3.4 percent a year earlier, according to figures from the Defense Manpower Data Center. Marriages among reservists failed at a rate of 2.8.percent compared to 2.7 percent the previous year.
Air Force Maj. April Cunningham, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said the changes from 2008 to 2009 were relatively small because of a myriad of programs offered by the services.
"All military services have a variety of programs focused on strengthening and/or enriching family bonds among couples," she said. "We believe these programs are instrumental in mitigating the stresses deployment places on marriages."
Still, the figures show a slow but steady upward trend in recent years as American forces fought the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Friday's reported 3.6 percent rate is a full percentage point above the 2.6 percent reported in late 2001, when the U.S. began sending troops to Afghanistan in response to the September terrorist attacks.
As in previous years, women in uniform suffered much higher divorce rates than their male counterparts — 7.7 percent in 2009, compared to 3 percent for men.
There's no comparable annual system for tracking the national or civilian divorce rate, though the Centers for Disease Control said in 2005 that 43 percent of all first marriages end in divorce within 10 years.
The numbers also do not speak to troubled but intact marriages.