Obesity Epidemic A Threat to National Security

Obesity is a major problem in the U.S. But not only is it a threat to someone’s individual health, it is also a factor affecting our national security. According to recent researches, the majority of young Americans simply do not qualify, and it means the military’s effectiveness is significantly reduced. Besides, there are soldiers who are overweight, and the rate is growing.

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Despite some efforts being made, promotion of a healthy lifestyle among young Americans does not seem to work out well. According to statistics, the share of youngsters aged 17 to 24 cannot join the army because they do not qualify. However, even if they did, they would probably refuse to should they be given such an opportunity: only 2% of Americans eligible for joining the military want to serve, down from 13% in 2016. These figures are alarming.

Among those who choose to wear a uniform, 31% cannot do it either, and the reason for it is startling. They are obese.

The obesity problem strikes Americans at an early age. Consider this: a significant share of 2-year-olds are overweight, and so are the whopping 42% of teenagers aged 16 to 19. Nearly half of all the people supposed to protect the country cannot do it due to their weight.

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There are other statistics which is just as alarming. Of all the American young folks who are proud owners of a high school diploma with no diagnosed chronic diseases or criminal records (29%), as few as 17% can qualify, and an even smaller number of 13% are capable of achieving a decent score on the AFQ Test and actually serve in the military. Just imagine: not even 13% of all the young population, but 13% of the 29% who have basic qualifications. These rates can hit the national security for six in the long run.

Overweight soldiers are also at a higher risk of being injured in the course of training. The situation is particularly bad in the Southern states, where a great share of potential recruits live: those who come from ten Southern states are 22 to 28% more likely to have an injury and are generally weaker physically. In Iraq and Afghanistan missions, injuries related to stress fractures and damage to muscles were most common.

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As to those people who are already serving, the issue of obesity also calls for urgent measures. In 2015, the share of overweight soldiers increased to 7.8% of the entire army, which is 78 percent more than the figure from 2011.

What can we do?

The government is trying to make changes to nutrition at school and promote a healthy lifestyle among all age groups, and while there are some improvements in this field (since the 2010 updates to the National School Lunch Program were introduced, consumption of vegetables increased by around 23%, and for fruits the figure is 16%), despite the efforts obesity rates are continuing to grow, which means these changes are not enough.

It is only if Americans themselves reevaluate their approach to nutrition that people can start getting leaner again. But it is also a matter of attitude towards serving in the army: if teenagers do not feel like joining the military, what incentive do they have to lose weight? It might even be a good excuse: I am overweight, so I can’t qualify, which means I get both the doughnuts and the freedom.

The question the government should ask itself is what we are doing wrong that the young do not want to serve in the army, because the problem is rooted not in school lunches, but much, much deeper.

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