Objectives To assess the benefit of waist circumference (WC) measurements during routine conscription medical examination in two military conscription centres in Switzerland. We compared the prevalence of overweight and obesity assessed by body mass index (BMI) with the prevalence of elevated disease risks assessed by WC and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). We investigated how these measures were associated with systolic blood pressure, physical fitness performance and socioeconomic determinants. Design Cross-sectional survey. Setting Two Swiss conscription centres in 2016. Participants 1548 Swiss male conscripts, 18–22 years old. Main outcome Prevalences of elevated WC, WHtR and BMI values according to WHO categories. Secondary outcomes include systolic blood pressure, physical fitness performance and endurance performance. Results Using BMI cut-points, 25.0% of all conscripts were overweight or obese. When applying WC cut-points, 9.2% had an increased disease risk, while 14.8% of the conscripts were at risk using WHtR cut-points. In the BMI range of 25.0–27.4 kg/m 2 , 3.6% showed an increased disease risk when using WC and 24.6% when using WHtR cut-points. Of the conscripts with a BMI of 27.5–29.9 kg/m 2 , 72.4% had an increased disease risk using WHtR, and 42.5% when using WC cut-points. Determinants of elevated BMI, WC and WHtR were low occupational status, rural residential area, older age and location in central and Northwest Switzerland. Systolic blood pressure increased with increasing BMI, WC and WHtR. Physical fitness and endurance test performances decreased with increasing BMI, WC and WHtR. Conclusion In addition to BMI, WC and WHtR add relevant information to the health assessment of young men. However, the prevalence of overweight/increased health risk differed when using BMI, WC or WHtR. Further studies should include measures of body composition to test whether these differences arise from muscular young men within the overweight BMI range, who had a normal WC.
Open access, Epidemiology