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Obesity - Women
Obesity - Women in United States
United States

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Obesity - Women in depth:

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General Population

Obesity - Women by State

Percentage of women ages 18-44 with a body mass index of 30.0 or higher based on reported height and weight

Obesity - Women Trends

Percentage of women ages 18-44 with a body mass index of 30.0 or higher based on reported height and weight

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Obesity - Women

About Obesity - Women

US Value: 30.4%

Top State(s): Massachusetts: 21.2%

Bottom State(s): Mississippi: 44.6%

Definition: Percentage of women ages 18-44 with a body mass index of 30.0 or higher based on reported height and weight

Data Source and Years: CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2019-2020

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Obesity is a complex health condition with biological, economic, environmental, individual and societal causes. Known contributing factors to obesity include social and physical environment, genetics, prenatal and early life influences and behaviors such as poor diet and physical inactivity.

Adults with obesity are at an increased risk of developing serious health conditions, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, sleep apnea and breathing problems, some cancers and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Weight stigma, or discrimination and stereotyping based on an individual’s weight, may also negatively influence mental and physical health. Obesity can impact reproductive health in women and is negatively associated with fertility, contraception effectiveness and mother and infant health during the perinatal period. This includes increased risk of gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes and birth complications such as preeclampsia, cesarean section and postpartum hemorrhage, as well as miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal mortality and infant mortality.

The costs associated with obesity and obesity-related health problems are staggering. One study estimated the annual medical cost of obesity to be $342.2 billion (in 2013 dollars). Beyond direct medical costs, the indirect costs of decreased productivity tied to obesity are estimated at $8.65 billion per year.

The prevalence of obesity is higher among:

  • Women ages 35-44 compared with women ages 18-24 and 25-34; women ages 18-24 have the lowest prevalence of obesity.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Black women compared with white and Asian women; Asian women have the lowest prevalence. 
  • Women with some post-high school education or less compared with college graduates, who have the lowest prevalence of obesity.
  • Women with an annual household income less than $25,000 compared with those with higher income levels; the prevalence of obesity is higher with each decrease in income level.

Addressing obesity requires a multifaceted approach with efforts from policymakers, state and local government, health care, schools, child care, families and individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers prevention strategies at the state, local and community levels as well as tips for living a healthy lifestyle. The Community Preventive Services Task Force has compiled a list of resources for the prevention and management of obesity. The Healthy Weight Checklist provides information on and measurable targets for eating healthy, getting enough sleep and physical activity, limiting screen time and reducing stress. The CDC recommends weight gain tracking to promote healthy pregnancy weight.

Healthy People 2030 has several objectives set for weight and nutrition, including reducing the proportion of adults with obesity and increasing the proportion of women who had a healthy weight before pregnancy.

Andreyeva, Tatiana, Joerg Luedicke, and Y. Claire Wang. “State-Level Estimates of Obesity-Attributable Costs of Absenteeism.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 56, no. 11 (November 2014): 1120–27.

Biener, Adam, John Cawley, and Chad Meyerhoefer. “The High and Rising Costs of Obesity to the US Health Care System.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 32, no. S1 (April 2017): 6–8.

Broughton, Darcy E., and Kelle H. Moley. “Obesity and Female Infertility: Potential Mediators of Obesity’s Impact.” Fertility and Sterility 107, no. 4 (April 2017): 840–47.


Ely, Danielle M., Elizabeth C. W. Gregory, and Patrick Drake. “Infant Mortality by Maternal Prepregnancy Body Mass Index: United States, 2017-2018.” National Vital Statistics Reports: From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System 69, no. 9 (August 2020): 1–11.


Kulie, Teresa, Andrew Slattengren, Jackie Redmer, Helen Counts, Anne Eglash, and Sarina Schrager. “Obesity and Women’s Health: An Evidence-Based Review.” Journal of American Board of Family Medicine 24, no. 1 (February 2011): 75–85.

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