Here’s the Skinny: Americans Getting Fatter

Adult Obesity Problem Not Getting Any Better, Despite Publicity About Its Health Toll, Survey Finds

From the WebMD Archives

May 7, 2010 -- Americans still aren’t heeding media and medical messages about the dangers of obesity. More Americans were obese at the end of 2010’s first quarter than at the same time last year, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The index, based on telephone surveys collected over three months, finds that obesity is trending higher among almost all groups. The obesity rate among adults in the U.S. was 26.7% at the end of the first three months of 2010, up slightly from 26.2% in the fourth quarter of 2009.

It’s up considerably from the 25.5% rate in 2008, and a tad higher than the 26.5% rate for 2009, according to the report.

The percentage of normal-weight Americans has now dropped to 35.2%, compared to 36.3% in the first quarter of 2008, but the same as in the first three months of 2009, the new survey says.

Obesity Rates Rising

Here are obesity rates for various age and demographic groups.

Age 2008 2009 First Quarter 2010
18-29 17.4% 18.3% 18.1%
30-44 27% 27.7% 28.8%
45-64 29.5% 30.6% 31%
65-up 23.4% 24.2% 24.9%

Race 2008 2009 First Quarter 2010
White 24.2% 25.2% 25.6%
Black 35.1% 36.2% 35.8%
Asian 8.6% 9.6% 8%
Hispanic 27.4% 28.3% 28.4%

Gender 2008 2009 First Quarter 2010
Male 27% 27.8% 28.3%
Female 23.9% 27.7% 25.2%

Region 2008 2009 First Quarter 2010
East 24.7% 25.6% 26.4%
West 22.8% 23.7% 23.4%
Midwest 26.8% 27.7% 27.8%
South 26.9% 28.2% 28.6%

Obesity Linked to Income

In terms of annual income, the survey found that the more people make, the lower the rate of obesity. For example, 31.2% of Americans earning under $6,000 were obese at the end of 2010’s first quarter, 31.7% making between $6,000 and $35,999, 27.1% earning between $36,000 and $89,999, and 21.7% for people earning $90,000 or more.


“It’s amazing,” Gallup Senior Director Eric Nielsen tells WebMD. “Every few years we’re going up in poundage. And it’s more amazing since we’ve had a lot of publicity and talk, from physicians and first lady Michelle Obama, who are warning about an obesity crisis. We as Americans just need a better sense of what’s going into our bodies.”

Gallup says it calculates body mass index scores based on survey respondents’ self-reports of height and weight. BMI values of 30 or above are classified as obese, 25 to 29.9 overweight, and 18.5 to 24.9 normal.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 677,086 adults, aged 18 and older. About 90,000 surveys are completed per quarter.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on May 07, 2010



Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

News release, Gallup.  

Eric Nielsen, senior vice president, Gallup.

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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