Healthy Living

published : 2023-09-24

Obesity Rates in the US Revealed: Urgent Priority to Address the Growing Epidemic

CDC highlights the states with the highest obesity prevalence, indicating a concerning trend

Obesity rates in the US: A close-up photo of a colorful plate of healthy fruits and vegetables, taken with a Nikon D850.

All U.S. states have an obesity rate among their residents of higher than 20%, which is at least one in five adults — and many exceed that.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published its 2022 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps on Thursday, detailing obesity rates for the 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories.

The three states with the highest obesity prevalence among their residents were Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia, all of which had a 40% or higher rate.

Nineteen states had obesity rates between 35% and 40%, the report said.

Twenty-two states ranged from 30% and 35% for obesity rates, up from 19 states in 2021.

These included Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Regionally, the Midwest had the highest rates of obesity at 35.8%, followed by the Southern states (35.6%), the Northeast (30.5%), and the West (29.5%).

The report drew data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone interview survey conducted on an ongoing basis by CDC and individual state health departments.

Our updated maps send a clear message that additional support for obesity prevention and treatment is an urgent priority. Obesity is a disease caused by many factors, including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and certain medications.

Addressing social determinants of health: A group of diverse people participating in a fitness class outdoors, taken with a Canon EOS R.

However, we know the key strategies that work include addressing the underlying social determinants of health, such as access to health care, healthy and affordable food, and safe places for physical activity.

Obesity rates were based on the share of adults who had a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30 based on their self-reported weight and height.

There was a wide variance among individual ethnic groups.

Among non-Hispanic Black adults, 38 states saw obesity rates of 35% or higher.

For non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults, 33 states or territories had obesity rates of 35% or higher.

Hispanic adults had at least that level of obesity in 32 different states.

For non-Hispanic White adults, 14 states had 35% or higher obesity.

Non-Hispanic Asian adults did not have that rate in any state or territory.

People with higher levels of education were less likely to have obesity, the CDC found.

Impact of education on obesity: A college graduation ceremony with excited graduates throwing their caps in the air, taken with a Sony A7 III.

Adults without at least a high school diploma had the highest obesity rates, at 37.6%.

Those with some college education had 35.9% obesity rates, followed by high-school graduates (35.7%) and college graduates (27.2%).

Young adults between 18 and 24 years old had the lowest obesity rate at 20.5%, while adults aged 45 to 54 had the highest rates (39.9%).

Obesity is a primer for age-related disease and early death. Being categorically obese is associated with a two- to 10-year reduction in life expectancy.

Obesity is a gateway disease to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer's, the diseases that kill most Americans.

Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, during which people were acutely ill — it was obvious — obesity kills you insidiously.

Medical costs related to obesity totaled nearly $173 billion in 2019, the CDC reported.

Unless we fix the obesity problem, the population en masse will be at an increasing risk for a reduced health span and foreshortened lifespan.