The Department of Defense just published its 2018 Health of the Force report — and things are looking heavy for one branch in particular.
Each year, the Defense Health Agency along with the Army, Navy, and Air Force public health centers, provide a snapshot of service member health and well-being. This year's report — which compiled data from the 2018 calendar year — focused on four subject areas: injury, behavioral health, sleep disorders, and obesity. Behavioral health and sleep disorder rates remained stable. Instances of injury decreased. But obesity rates continue to increase.
In 2018, the overall prevalence of obesity was 17.4 percent compared to 15.8 percent in 2014.
And for the Navy — that number is 22 percent.
"Obesity negatively impacts physical performance and military readiness and is associated with long-term health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and risk for all-cause mortality," the report reads. These obese service members also use a more significant portion of healthcare benefits than their "normal-weight counterparts."
Overall, obesity rates were higher among males at 18.4 percent versus 12.6 percent. Service members less than 25 years of age showed the lowest rates of obesity at 9.7 percent and service members between 35 and 44 years of age showed the highest rates at 28.2 percent.
Beyond the active-duty component, obesity rates within the civilian population have also negatively impacted recruiting rates.
“Out of all the reasons that we have future soldiers disqualify, the largest – 31 percent ― is obesity,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said at last year's AUSA annual meeting in Washington, D.C.