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Army report shows soldiers lack sleep, struggle to eat right

Soldiers continue to struggle with eating healthy and getting enough sleep, according to the Army's first Health of the Force report.

The report, released Dec. 10 by the Army surgeon general's office, gives leaders and commanders a snapshot of active-duty soldier health across 30 U.S.-based installations in 2014.

It looked at injuries, behavioral health, chronic disease, obesity, tobacco use, sleep disorders, hospital admissions, and other health measures. Officials then created an overall Installation Health Index, rating each installation in the study.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Benning, Georgia, for example, both had higher scores for physical fitness but lower scores for sleep. Fort Eustis, Virginia, had lower rates of tobacco use and diagnosed sleep disorders but a higher proportion of soldiers who were not medically ready.

The report is the Army's first attempt to review, prioritize and share best health practices at the installation level, according to information from the Army. Senior Army leaders now can use the report to track the health of the Army, post by post, and share lessons learned, said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the outgoing Army surgeon general.

The study was initiated during Horoho's tenure; she retires Dec. 15.

The report nests with a push by senior Army leaders to increase readiness across the force.

"I want every soldier deployable in the Army," Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has said. "It's about building readiness in the United States Army, doing what's right, taking care of soldiers and getting them healthy."

About 102,500 soldiers — active, National Guard and Army Reserve — are currently non-deployable, according to data from the Army. That's about 10 percent of the total Army. Of those soldiers, about 50,000 are active-duty, 28,000 are in the Guard, and about 25,000 are in the Reserve.

The full report can be found at www.armytimes.com/healthreport.

Here are some highlights:

Sleep

One in 20 active-duty soldiers are prescribed sleep medications, and these soldiers are less likely to be medically ready to deploy.

In addition, nearly one-third of soldiers get five hours of sleep or less each night, an amount linked to increased risk of behavioral health disorders, illness and musculoskeletal injuries. Almost 62 percent of soldiers get less than seven hours of sleep each night, and almost half of service members have a clinically significant sleep problem that results in 33 percent reporting fatigue three or four days a week.

PT

One in 20 soldiers fail the Army Physical Fitness Test each year. These soldiers are almost three times less likely to be medically ready to deploy.

According to the survey, only 68.8 percent of soldiers get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic endurance training a week, and 57 percent get at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic endurance training a week.

The survey also found 78,000 active-duty soldiers are considered clinically obese — with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. These soldiers also are less likely to be medically ready to deploy.

Nutrition

One-third of soldiers report that healthy foods are too expensive, while 30 percent report they don't have enough time to prepare healthy foods.

The survey found just 10.8 percent of soldiers eat three or more servings of fruits every day, and just 12.9 percent eat three or more servings of vegetables a day.

Injuries

The survey found 180,000 active-duty soldiers have at least one musculoskeletal injury per year, resulting in more than 10 million limited duty days. These types of injuries account for 76 percent of the Army's medically non-deployable population.

Overall, 55 percent of soldiers were diagnosed with an injury in 2014, and the survey found roughly 1,295 new injuries were diagnosed for every 1,000 soldiers. The top causes of these injuries include overexertion and falls.

Tobacco

About 32 percent of soldiers reported using tobacco. About 23 percent reported smoking, almost 13 percent reported using smokeless tobacco, and more than 4 percent reported using both.

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