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Increasing numbers unfit to serve in Army due to psychological and weight issues, say recruiters

Ben Hamilton
May 10th, 2023


Nearly 60 percent of all applicants in 2022 were rejected by Forsvarets Personalestyrelse, compared to 30 percent in 1995

A reasonable level of mental and physical fitness is needed to serve (photo: Forsvaret)

Young men are far more likely to have mental health diagnoses or be obese than in the mid-1990s, according to Forsvarets Personalestyrelse, the Danish Defence unit in charge of military conscription. 

Over the first half of 2022, Forsvarets Personalestyrelse informed 57.83 percent of all applicants for military service that they were unfit to serve, reports Berlingske.

In 1995, just 30 percent were deemed unsuitable.

Health not worse though, assures expert
In 2021, a Forsvaret report concluded the main reason for the growing rejection rate was the increase in mental health diagnoses. Nevertheless, a 2017 report cited by Berlingske suggested that only 22 percent were declared unfit for military service for that reason.

Growing obesity was also cited. According to the findings of Anne Illemann Christensen from Statens Institut for Folkesundhed, the number of overweight males aged 16-24 has doubled from 5 to 10 percent since 2010.

However, Christensen would not be drawn into saying young people’s health is getting worse.

“The proportion of young people with long-term illness or poor health is unchanged. Young people’s health behaviour has not changed remarkably either – apart from the fact there are fewer people drinking alcohol,” she said.

Will women plug the gap?
The findings follow a late January admission from Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the then acting defence minister, that women should become available for conscription to the Danish Armed Forces.

He told TV2 Denmark could no longer afford to only accept volunteers – and everyone, including women, should be eligible.

While the law permits the Armed Forces to forcefully enlist soldiers, fewer than 1 percent are conscripted in this way. The youngsters’ national service tends to last between four and 12 months.

In related news, the acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, yesterday told Børsen that Ellemann-Jensen is “doing better” – but no actual return date has been confirmed yet.


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