U.S. adult obesity rates remained mostly steady―but high―this past year, increasing in Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah and remaining stable in the rest, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Arkansas had the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest at 21.3 percent. The 12th annual report found that rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent in three states (Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi), are at or above 30 percent in 22 states and are not below 21 percent in any. In 1980, no state had a rate above 15 percent, and in 1991, no state had a rate above 20. Now, nationally, more than 30 percent of adults, nearly 17 percent of 2 to 19 year olds and more than 8 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are obese.
Obesity puts some 78 million Americans at an increased risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Other key findings from The State of Obesity include:
- 7 of the 10 states with the highest rates are in the South and 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest.
- 9 of the 10 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South. Diabetes rates increased in eight states – Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest adult obesity rate, 54 percent, of any racial or ethnic group.
- Nationally, obesity rates are 38 percent higher among Blacks than Whites; and more than 26 percent higher among Latinos than Whites. (Obesity rates for Blacks: 47.8 percent; Latinos: 42.5 percent; and Whites: 32.6 percent.)
- Adult obesity rates are at or above 40 percent for Blacks in 14 states.
- Adult obesity rates are at or above 30 percent in: 42 states for Blacks; 30 states for Latinos; and 13 states for Whites.
- Obesity rates are 26 percent higher among middle-age adults than among younger adults― rates rise from 30 percent of 20- to 39- year olds to nearly 40 percent of 40- to 59-year-olds.
- More than 6 percent of adults are severely obese – more than a 125 percent increase in the past two decades. Around 5 percent of children are already severely obese by the ages of 6 to 11.
- Among children and teens (2 to 19 years old), 22.5 percent of Latinos, more than 20 percent of Blacks and 14.1 percent of Whites are obese.
- Prevention among children is key. It is easier and more effective to prevent overweight and obesity in children, by helping every child maintain a healthy weight, than it is to reverse trends later. The biggest dividends are gained by starting in early childhood, promoting good nutrition and physical activity so children enter kindergarten at a healthy weight.
- Healthy communities can help people lead healthy lives. Small changes that make it easier and more affordable to buy healthy foods and beverages and be physically active can lead to big differences. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Academy of Medicine, and other experts have identified a range of policies and programs (e.g., improving school nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle interventions, health screenings, walking programs) that can help create healthier communities. Lower-income communities often face higher hurdles, and need more targeted efforts.
This is the 12th annual edition of The State of Obesity (formerly known as the F as in Fat report series) report. The full report, with state rankings in all categories and updated interactive maps, charts and graphs, is available at http://stateofobesity.org. Follow the conversation at #StateofObesity.