The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a surge in obesity in the U.S. military, according to a new study from the Center for Health Services Research at the Uniformed Services University.
The results showed that almost 10,000 active-duty Army personnel became obese during the pandemic. The period studied spanned from Feb. 2019 through June 2021.
The Associated Press reported that increases were also recorded in the Navy and Marines.
New research finds that obesity in US military surged during COVID-19 pandemic https://t.co/kk6GxJvzZo
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More issues arose with recruits’ weight as the Army in fiscal year 2022 fell short of its recruitment goal for the first time. Obesity among those seeking to serve rated highest in factors leading to missing the mark.
Tracey Perez Koehlmoos of the Uniformed Services University said that it is time for the Army and other service branches “to focus on how to bring the forces back to fitness.”
Koehlmoos and her team used military medical records for all active duty Army personnel. Their work surveyed the year prior to the pandemic and then up to June 2021. For obvious reasons, they excluded pregnant soldiers and those who gave birth during that time.
They discovered nearly 27% of the remaining soldiers who were healthy became overweight during the COVID-19 lockdowns, based on body mass index (BMI) calculations. And almost 16% of those who were previously categorized as overweight transitioned to obese.
Federal research revealed that the military loses over 650,000 workdays every year due to obesity-related and weight issues. This translates into costs of more than $1.5 billion for current and former service members and their families.
The Army’s historic miss of its recruitment goal may be largely summed up by the fact that three-quarters of Americans aged 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service. Being overweight is the largest single impediment, as 1 in 10 potential recruits are obese.
This is not a new issue, but it is one with no end in sight.
Retired Marine Corps Brigadier Gen. Stephen Cheney co-authored a recent report highlighting the challenge faced by the armed forces.
Speaking to the American Security Project in November, Cheney noted that “the numbers have not gotten better. They are just getting worse and worse and worse.” He added that the current obesity crisis is “devastating” and translates into a “dramatic national security problem.”