Adult Obesity Rates Still Rising in the United States

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Obesity rates have risen from 31.8% of US adults in 2013 to 34.9% in 2014, according to a new report, “The State of Obesity,” released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 68.6% of people in the United States are obese (a Body Mass Index—BMI–over 30) or overweight (a BMI between 25 and 29).

Arkansas had the highest obesity rate at 35.9%. 22 states had 30% or more of their populations with BMIs over 30, with three of those states (Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi) exceeding a 35% obesity rate. The states with the ten highest obesity rates are located in the South and Midwest (AR, WV, MS, LA, AL, OK, IN, OH, ND, and SC). Colorado maintained the lowest obesity rate at 21.3%.

Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director of Trust for America’s Health, stated, “Success requires finding ways to make healthy choices easier in our daily lives… Children need the chance to grow up at a healthy weight, and all adults need the opportunity to be as healthy as they can be, no matter what their weight… We do know a lot about what works, now we just have to invest in these approaches.”

The study found that more than 6% of adults were severely obese (BMI of 40 or higher), and women had higher rates of obesity than men (36.1% for women, 33.5% for men) as well as higher rates of extreme obesity (8.3% for women, 4.4% for men).

Almost 40% of adults aged 40 to 59 were obese (39.5%), while slightly fewer older adults (aged 60 and over) were obese (35.4%) and even fewer younger adults aged 20 to 39 (30.3%). Black adults had the highest obesity rates (47.8%), followed by Latino adults (42.5%), white adults (32.6%), and Asian adults (10.8%).

The average American is more than 24 pounds heavier in 2014 than in 1960.

Among adults who did not graduate high school, almost 33% were obese, compared to 21.5% of adults who graduated from college. Adults who earned at least $50,000 per year had a 24.6% percent obesity rate while adults who earned less than $15,000 yearly had a 33% obesity rate.

The report estimates that obesity and obesity-related conditions and diseases cost the United States between $147 billion and $210 billion yearly and are associated with job absenteeism (which costs about $4.3 billion per year) and lower work productivity (about $506 per employee yearly). Individually, obese adults spend 42% more on direct healthcare and are 28% more likely to go to the hospital for chest pains.

Sources:

Jim Algar, “Obesity Rates Holding Steady in Most US States But Are Still Too High, Report Says,” www.techtimes.com, Sep. 21, 2015

Nadia Kounang, “Weight of the Union: Obesity by State,” www.cnn.com, Sep. 22, 2015

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “New Report Finds 23 of 25 States with Highest Rates of Obesity are in the South and Midwest,” www.rwjf.org, Sep. 21, 2015

Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” www.stateofobesity.org, Sep. 21, 2015