APH 2001, 59, 113-135:

Body mass, obesity and fitness among young men.

D. A. Deliege

Keywords: body mass, body mass index, obesity, body, weight, fitness, health status, aptitude, young men

- To assess the evolution of body mass (BMI), obesity and overweight among conscripts
- To test variations according to age, region, language

Basis procedures:
Belgian conscripts underwent a clinical assessment: about 48 500 annually (= cc 71% of Belgian males).  For 631 327 conscripts (1978-1990), BMI, obesity and overweight were analysed in relation with time trend, "age-class", region, language and decision about fitness.  Statistical analyses included: oneway, Student-Newman-Keuls, ANOVA, Multiple classification and Chi-square tests.

Main findings: All analysis showed very significant associations.

Time trend: BMI increased: + .65kg/mē, taking into account region "age-class"; the prevalence of obesity more than double; that of overweight was multiplied by at least 1.3 (up to age 24).

"Age-class": BMI was significantly higher for the eldest (26+) compared to the youngest (18): + 1.12kg/mē, taking region and time trend into account.  However "age-class" is linked to education: university graduates underwent the test at an older age.

Region: BMI was always higher in Wallonia: + .45kg/mē versus Flanders, taking "age-class" and time trend into account.

Medical assessment: 10.1% of the conscripts were rejected for medical reasons; 16.5% were refused when the BMI reached 30, up to 77% from BMI 40 on.  Those exclusions represent about 7% of all young men concerned (including those who did not shop up at the examination); outside the procedure under review, an extra 5% were exempted for medical reasons.

Conclusions: The time trend in BMI proved very significant.  BMI was linked to age-class and region.  Obesity strongly affected inability to join the armed forces. Due to the risks associated to obesity, action should be taken.