Enrolling underage teenagers into the military has “long-lasting and complex effects” on their mental and physical health, child health specialists have stated in the British Medical Journal.

Countries like Britain, Russia, Mexico, and Pakistan all recruit 16-year-olds, though experts specify the UK actually begins the enlistment process at 15 years and 7 months.

They add that the 2-year training starts at 16 then turns into a 4-year service, which lasts until soldiers are 22.

The editorial—co-authored by public health charity Medact—argues this system “capitalises on the ‘window of vulnerability’” adolescents experience in their mid-teens. In this ‘window of vulnerability’, teenagers’ ability to feel fear (and consequently, to assess risk) is impaired.

No other European Union nation recruits below the age of 17; most recruit 18-year-olds.

Major Western armies have struggled with hiring shortfalls in recent years, which may explain why countries like Germany and the UK seek to enrol minors—and even, in the former case, foreigners.

At what age should people be allowed to join the army?

 

Credit for this article's header image goes to Getty.