7 in 10 US military personnel are overweight or obese

A study by the American Security Project shows that 7 out of 10 American soldiers face problems of being overweight or obese. While the phenomenon has increased considerably in recent years, particularly following the COVID crisis, this observation calls on the American armies to react, before it directly threatens the execution of the defense mission.

 “On a given horse, we don’t look at the teeth.” This popular saying has been partly at the heart of the U.S. military's new recruiting standards in recent years.

The difficulties of the American armies in maintaining their numbers

Indeed, in the face of great difficulties they encounter in recruiting and maintaining their workforce, these have, in previous years, degraded not only the physical condition criteria for re-enlistment, but also the overweight criteria during initial recruitment, by having reduced the maximum body mass index to 24,9 at 27,5.

It must be said that the Pentagon does not have an easy task. On the one hand, the latest public health reports indicate that 3 out of 4 Americans of age to be called up for military service would not meet the already degraded physical criteria of the US armies.

American military

On the other hand, the American military is now courted even within the bases by the private sector, whether defense manufacturers or airlines, creating a significant re-engagement deficit and even greater pressure on armies to try to maintain their numbers.

All of these concomitant factors have led, over the years, to an obvious deterioration in the physical condition of a growing portion of the American military personnel.

American soldiers increasingly overweight or obese

Un recent report from the American Security Project, an American NGO specializing in national defense issues, affirms, in fact, that today, 68% of American soldiers have a BMI classifying them as Overweight or above, according to the criteria of the National Institutes of Health (NIH ).

Worse still, 21% of them would be classified as obese, and therefore exposed to significant health risks, and therefore for the safety of the service. » The rapid and sustained recurrence of obesity across all services, ranks and positions now poses a serious threat, particularly to at-risk populations and those serving in critical combat roles  according to the report.

This phenomenon has also experienced a significant acceleration since the COVID crisis, which gave rise to certain adaptations of service and in terms of medical requirements, now directly threatening the defense mission itself.

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Obviously, the American report is not content with a simple observation, however alarming it may be. It also makes a series of recommendations to try to stem the ever-increasing phenomenon, such as replacing the policy of bypassing medical examinations currently practiced in units for overweight staff.

On the contrary, the ASP recommends increasing the medical monitoring of these personnel, so as to support them in trying to return to a physical condition consistent with the requirements of the service.

And to conclude that "the increases in BMI among army soldiers are likely to continue unless there is an intervention", and therefore to put an end, within the American armies, to the burying their heads in the sand following the serious HR difficulties they encounter.

European armies resist better, but are exposed to the same trend

If most, if not all, Western armies face the same recruitment difficulties, the drift in terms of weight, seems above all to affect the American armies. It is true that the overweight rate within the European population, at 25%, can also seem alarming. However, it is much better than that across the Atlantic, particularly for populations aged 18 to 35.

In addition, the European armies seem significantly less permissive than their American counterparts in the field, and willingly direct threatened soldiers towards medical support to improve their physical condition.

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A study published a few years ago on the subject showed that the average BMI within the French armies was 25,2, or 2,3 points below the recruitment base for the US armies, for recruits who, often, are at their best.

On the other hand, the same trend towards an increase in the number of cases of overweight and sometimes obesity is observed within the European armies, even if the figures are very significantly lower than those across the Atlantic.

It is also interesting to note that each society carries its own ills. Thus, if the Chinese armies are much less exposed to recruitment difficulties due to physical condition problems, it appears that a third of young Chinese are unfit for service, due to severe myopia problems.

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