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Armed Forces ‘Strong, Healthy, Ready,’ Survey Says

American Forces Press Service

FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 16, 2009 – Members of the armed forces are strong, healthy and ready to accomplish their mission, a survey of their health-related behaviors has revealed.

Defense Department officials today announced the final results of 2008’s survey of health-related behaviors among active duty military personnel. Active duty Coast Guard personnel were included in the survey's cohort for the first time since the series of surveys began in 1980, officials said, providing the first comprehensive look at all active military services.

"The 2008 survey indicates that the U.S. armed forces are generally strong, healthy, and ready to accomplish their mission," said Dr. Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical policy and program policy. "We are pleased with the continued increase of healthy behaviors and preventive health practices reported by our servicemembers."

The study shows notable decreases over the past 28 years in the use of cigarettes and illegal drugs, and also reveals encouraging indicators of mental well-being. Improvements in certain self-reported preventive health measures since 2005 include increases in moderate or vigorous exercise and a decline in overweight personnel under age 20.

When compared to civilian data adjusted to mirror military demographic characteristics, the 2008 survey showed that military rates of heavy drinking were lower than the civilian average among people 46 to 64 years old. For cigarette use, military rates were slightly higher than civilian rates among people 18 to 35, but military rates were significantly lower for people 36 and older.

The 2008 rate for illicit drug use, including prescription drugs, was 12 percent, up from 5 percent in 2005. Officials attributed the increase primarily to the addition of questions that ask for usage of prescription medication for nonmedical reasons. Rates of use of nonprescription illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines have remained low and stable at about 2 percent.

This survey is the tenth in a series of confidential, anonymous standardized surveys that ask active-duty servicemembers about various health-related behaviors. In addition to substance use, the survey also assesses mental well-being, deployment issues, fitness, nutrition and weight management and selected national health status goals from the Department of Health and Human Services “Healthy People 2010” objectives.

More than 28,500 servicemembers from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard -- randomly selected to represent men and women in all pay grades of the active force throughout the world -- completed the survey.

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2008 Survey of Health-related Behaviors

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