Military Recruits Too Fat to Fight

Military recruits are increasingly rejected for the armed forces because they are overweight or obese, putting America’s national defense at risk.

A growing number of military hopefuls are being deemed too fat to fight for their country.

A team of researchers at Cornell University looked at data from 2007 to 2008 and found that 5.7 million American men and 16.5 million women were ineligible to join the military because they were simply too fat.

“Almost one in four applicants to the military are rejected for being overweight or obese—it’s the most common reason for medical disqualification,” study researcher John Cawley, Ph.D., an associate professor of policy analysis and management, said in a statement.

At a time when recruitment is already struggling, the fact that there are a smaller number of recruits to choose from comes as an even bigger blow for national defense.

Several other studies have revealed the same findings, including a report entitled, “Too Fat to Fight.” The report was released by a group of retired military generals and admirals, who were worried that the rise in teen obesity could compromise military readiness at a time when meeting recruitment goals is already a difficult task.

The Cornell report is just another example of the extensive consequences the obesity epidemic can have not only for individuals, but also for the country, according to Cawley.

“We tend to think of obesity as a personal, individual health problem. But the fact that U.S. military leaders view it as a threat to national security and military readiness shows its far-reaching impact,” he said.

Last month, Cawley and Lehigh University professor of economics Chad Meyerhoefer released another study on the high medical costs associated with obesity. They found that annual health care expenses related to the treatment of obesity are about $168 billion, representing about 17 percent of total annual health care spending in the U.S.


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