More States Added to List With High Obesity Prevalence

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Sept. 22, 2023 – In 22 states across the nation, more than 1 in 3 adults have obesity, according to new data released Thursday by the CDC. That’s up from 19 states in 2021, and none a decade ago. 

Obesity is when a person’s weight is higher than what is considered healthy for the person’s height.

Nationwide, no state had a prevalence of obesity below 20%, meaning at least 1 in 5 people in every state has obesity.

The agency called for a stronger focus on increasing people’s access to health care, to healthy and affordable food, and to safe places for physical activity.

The new numbers “send a clear message that additional support for obesity prevention and treatment is an urgent priority,” said Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in a statement. “Obesity is a disease caused by many factors, including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and certain medications. This means that there is no one size fits all approach.”

The 22 states where 35% or more of adults had obesity in 2022 are: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

A review of obesity data for racial or ethnic groups at the state level found that people of color are more highly affected by the disease of obesity. When CDC analysts looked at racial or ethnic groups individually by state, they found:

  • 14 states with at least 35% of white adults with obesity.
  • 32 states with at least 35% of Hispanic adults with obesity.
  • 33 states with at least 35% of American Indian or Alaska Native adults with obesity.
  • 38 states with at least 35% of Black adults with obesity.

Washington, D.C., was the only part of the U.S. with less than 25% of adults having obesity. The highest rates of obesity occurred in Louisiana (40%), Oklahoma (40%), and West Virginia (41%).

People self-reported that they had obesity as part of the CDC’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey, which tallies more than 400,000 respondents per year.

Obesity puts people at an increased risk for many additional serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, poor mental health, and severe outcomes from COVID-19.

The CDC provided these tips to help address obesity:

  • Eat a healthy diet by following the national dietary guidelines, such as eating mainly vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods, while limiting sugar, saturated fat, sodium, and alcohol.
  • Get the amount of physical activity recommended by the national physical activity guidelines, such as at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, preferably spread across at least three days for most adults.
  • Get involved in community efforts to improve options for healthier foods and physical activity.
  • If you weigh more than recommended, lose weight to help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Manage stress.
  • Talk to your health care provider about obesity prevention and treatment options.