Report: Obesity Often Keeps Kentuckians From Serving in Military

Oct 7, 2014

A new report finds 73 percent of Kentuckians who attempt to join the military are turned away and the leading cause is obesity.
Credit U.S. Army

A new report shows that many young adults in Kentucky are ineligible for military service due to obesity.

Retired Army Major Gen. Allen Youngman presented the report, "Retreat is not an option for Kentucky," during the Southern Obesity Summit Monday in Louisville.

Youngman says being overweight is the leading medical disqualifier for military service in Kentucky.

Combined with factors like lack of education and having a criminal background, Kentucky’s disqualification rate is 73 percent, three points higher than the national average.

"They don't have to be in perfect shape when they come in but to pass a certain point it's been demonstrated over and over again that it would be doing them a disservice and a disservice to the military to  put them into uniform and expect them to meet the standards," said Youngman.

Obesity doesn't just affect potential recruits.  Youngman says there was a 61 percent increase in obesity among active duty members between 2002 and 2011.

He says active duty members get their meals off-base more than ever before.

"If they eat nothing but what's provided through the military dining facilities they are less likely to gain weight. But we don't lock our soldiers up 24/7 on base and feed them only those things."

The report says 12 percent of active duty service members are obese.