At a time when American military forces are stretched thin overseas and people who wouldn’t ordinarily considered joining up need jobs, a growing number of potential recruits are too fat to enlist. This is a shame, because there are things you can only learn by being a soldier. Subscribers can still listen to this show.
In the past half-century, the number of women of military age who exceed the US Army’s enlistment standards for weight-to-height ratio and body fat percentage has more than tripled. For military-age men, the figure has more than doubled. As of 2007-08, 5.7 million American men and 16.5 million women of military age were ineligible for duty because they were overweight or obese.
The findings are cause for alarm for the four US military branches, which together must attract more than 180,000 new service members each year. Researcher John Cawley says, “Almost one in 4 applicants to the military are rejected for being overweight or obese–it’s the most common reason for medical disqualification. It is well-known that the military is struggling to recruit and retain soldiers. Having a smaller pool of men and women who are fit enough to serve adds to the strain and creates even more problems for national defense.
“It’s another example of the underappreciated public consequences of obesity. We tend to think of obesity as a personal, individual health problem. But the fact that US military leaders view it as a threat to national security and military readiness shows its far-reaching impact.”
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