Adult Obesity

Obesity rates are climbing fast. In fact, just one-third of American adults have a normal weight, and an equal proportion is obese. Overall, men are more likely to be obese. Obesity is linked to chronic disease and is an economic drain on the nation.

  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "State Rankings on Adult Obesity Rates and Related Factors
Obesity rates are climbing fast. It is no exaggeration to call this an epidemic.
  • In 1999, no state had obesity rates above 30 percent. Just 10 years later, nine states had rates above 30 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1
  • Just one-third of Americans are considered to be at normal weight. In addition to the 33.8 percent of Americans  who are obese, another 34.2 percent are overweight and 5.7 percent are extremely obese.2
  • n 2009, African-Americans were the least likely to have normal weight (31.6 percent), followed by American Indian/Alaskan Natives (33 percent), Hispanics (36.8 percent) and whites (39.8 percent). The majority of Asians (58.8 percent) were of normal weight.3
  • Overall, men are more likely to be overweight or obese than women. Almost 70 percent of men were overweight or obese in 2009, compared to 50 percent of women.
Obesity is linked to many chronic diseases and is an economic drain on the nation.
  • Being obese is a risk factor for many chronic diseases and health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.
  • Obesity and health-related issues corresponding to obesity are responsible for approximately 112,000 deaths per year.4
  • National estimates for the annual medical costs of obesity were approximately $147 billion in 2008.5
  • Increases in obesity alone accounted for almost $40 billion in increased medical spending from 1998 through 2006.6
  • Obesity costs U.S. companies nearly $47 billion every year. These costs include health insurance costs, paid sick leave, life insurance and disability insurance premiums.7
Communities, states and workplaces are responding with programs to reduce obesity and achieve wellness.
  • Seven states have enacted worksite wellness legislation targeting both state and private employees, including providing tax credits to private employers. The legislation involved wellness policies and programs and alternative transportation, which promoted a  combination of increased funding for new walking trails, sidewalks, and public transportation.8
  • Workplace wellness programs focused on obesity prevention result in an average reduction of annual medical costs of $90 per person9 and a return on investment ranging from $3.70 to $9.90.10
  • States and communities are making investments to bring healthful foods to low-income neighborhoods, often termed “food deserts” due to their lack of accessibility to quality foods. California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin all have programs to encourage grocery stores and farmers markets in these neighborhoods.11

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Obesity Trends Among U.S. Adults Between 1985 and 2009.” 
3 “Overweight and obesity rates for adults by race/ethnicity, 2009.” Kaiser Family Foundation.  
4 Flegal K.M., Graubard B.I., Williamson, D.F., Gail, M.H. “Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 2005 Apr 20; 293 (15): 1861-7. 
5 “Rising Health Care Costs are Unsustainable.” Workplace Health Promotion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
6 Finkelstein, E.A., Trogdon, J.G., Cohen, J.W., Dietz, W. “Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payerand-service estimates.” Health Affairs. 2009 Sep-Oct; 28 (5): 822-31.
7 Rosen, B., Barrington, L. “Weights & measures: what employers should know about obesity – key findings.” Human Capital. May 2008. The Conference Board. 
8 Lankford, T., Kruger, J., Bauer, D. “State legislation to improve employee wellness.” American Journal of Health Promotion. March/April 2009, 23 (4): 283-289.
 9 Trogdon, J., Finkelstein, E.A., Reyes, M., Ditz, W.H. “A return-on-investment simulation model of workplace obesity interventions.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. July 2009, 51 (7): 751-758. 
10 “Investments in disease prevention yield significant savings, stronger communities.” Prevention for a Healthy America. July 2008.  
11 “Access to Health Foods in Low-Income Neighborhoods – Opportunities for Public Policy.” Rudd Report. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Yale University. Fall 2008.
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