- Percentage of the population estimated to be obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.
- Percentage of adults who are obese by self-report, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.
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Percent of population
Population number affected (in 000)
Core Measure Impact
Obesity is the percentage of adults who are estimated to be obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher, according to self-reported height and weight. BMI is equal to weight in pounds divided by height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703. The CDC has a calculator for BMI. The 2015 ranks are based on self-report data from CDC’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Because of the 2011 change in BRFSS methodology, obesity prevalence from the 2012 Edition onward cannot be directly compared to estimates from previous years (see Methodology).
In no state is the proportion of obesity in the general population less than 1 in 5. The prevalence of obesity ranges from 21.3% of adults in Colorado to more than 35.0% of adults in West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas. The national median of obese adults is 29.6%, remaining consistent compared to 29.7% in 2014. For obesity prevalence by state and age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, income, or education level, see Health Disparities within States.
Public Health Impact
One of the greatest health threats to the United States is obesity. It contributes to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, hypertension, liver disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, respiratory conditions, osteoarthritis, and poor general health. More than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, and obesity is a leading factor in preventable diseases causing an estimated 200,000 deaths per year. The direct medical costs for treating obesity and obesity-related health problems are eye-opening; in 2008, for example, an estimated $147 billion was spent on obesity or obesity-related health issues. Childhood obesity is responsible for $14.1 billion in annual medical costs. Obese children who are able to maintain healthy weights as adults spend an additional $19,000 in medical costs over their lifetime directly related to childhood obesity. Children and teens who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults and are at increased risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Obese individuals spend on average 42% more on health care than healthy weight adults.
Disparities in obesity rates exist among US adults. In counties with poverty rates above 35%, the rate of obesity is 145% greater than the rate in high-income countries. Adults in poverty are less likely to be physically active; violence is tied to poverty discouraging outside activity, and low-income adults are less able to afford gym memberships and exercise equipment.
The prevalence of obesity is greater than the prevalence of smoking, and obesity is similar to smoking and excessive alcohol consumption in terms of contributing to chronic conditions and overall poor physical health. The causes of obesity include lifestyle, especially poor diet and physical inactivity; social and physical environment; genetics; and medical history. Since the 1980s energy intake has climbed and energy expenditure has declined, leading to a growing energy imbalance that closely mirrors the obesity rates. There is increasing evidence illustrating the importance of environment in the obesity epidemic and the need for changes in social and physical environments in order to better facilitate lifestyle changes. Successful interventions have targeted a variety of populations with strategies ranging from school-based prevention programs to treatment interventions in aging adults.- Obesity’s negative health effects can be attenuated with weight loss, and the CDC has compiled a list of resources for community-level interventions that can lower obesity rates by supporting healthy eating and active living in a variety of settings.
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Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020. http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/objectiveslist.aspx?topicId=29. Accessed May 20, 2015.