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Pentagon survey says troops fatter, drinking more

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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) US troops were fatter and drank harder in 2005 than before the Iraq war started, according a Pentagon survey of more than 16,000 service members released yesterday.

Still, the Pentagon said service members appeared to fare better than civilians in measures of lifestyle and health-related behaviors.

''I am pleased, and even a little surprised, that despite the stresses of war and ongoing deployments, nearly all indicators of service members' health and well-being continue to be quite good compared with civilian populations,'' said William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs.

Some 60.5 per cent of respondents in the 2005 survey were overweight compared with 57.2 per cent in the previous survey conducted in 2002.

The survey also showed 44.5 per cent of respondents participated in ''binge drinking,'' up from 41.8 per cent in 2002.

The Iraq war began in March 2003.

Personnel deployed from 2002 to 2005 had higher rates of work and family stress as well as higher rates of heavy alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug use than those who did not deploy, it said.

A greater number of personnel who deployed in that period met criteria for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms than those who were not deployed, according to the survey.

The Pentagon cautioned that the figures were not definitive because they came from a voluntary survey.

''These screening questions do not represent a formal clinical diagnostic evaluation, but suggest some of our personnel should be encouraged to obtain more evaluation,'' Winkenwerder said.

The 2005 survey was the ninth in a series of anonymous, voluntary surveys asking active-duty service members about their health behaviors.

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