Adult Obesity Rates Remain Steady, Report Finds

Adult Obesity Rates Remain Steady, Report Finds

After rising for three decades, adult obesity rates held steady in 2012 in every state except Arkansas but remain high overall, a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.

According to the report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013 (116 pages, PDF), adult obesity rates were above 30 percent in thirteen states, between 25 percent and 30 percent in twenty-eight states, and between 20 percent and 25 percent in the remaining nine states and the District of Columbia. The rate of increase in the number of people who are obese appears to have slowed since 2005, when every state except one saw an increase in obesity rates, with rates increasing in thirty-seven states in 2008, twenty-eight states in 2010, and only sixteen states in 2011. Still, after three decades of steady increases, obesity rates remain high. In 1980, for example, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent; in 1991, no state was above 20 percent; in 2000, no state was above 25 percent; and as recently as 2007 only Mississippi had a rate above 30 percent.

The report also found that nineteen of the twenty states with the highest adult obesity rates were in the South, with Louisiana topping the list at 34.7 percent. Rates among baby boomers reached 40 percent in Alabama and Louisiana and were 30 percent or higher in forty-one states. In addition, the study found that more than 35 percent of adults age 26 and older who did not graduate from high school were obese, compared with 21.3 percent of those who graduated from college or a technical school, while over 31 percent of those age 18 and older who earn less than $25,000 a year were obese, compared with 25.4 percent of those who earn at least $50,000 a year. The report's policy recommendations for preventing obesity and containing the costs of obesity-related illnesses include offering only healthy food in schools, expanding access to opportunities for physical activity, and designing transportation plans that encourage walking and biking.

"While stable rates of adult obesity may signal prevention efforts are starting to yield some results, the rates remain extremely high," said TFAH executive director Jeffrey Levi. "Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, baby boomers — who are aging into obesity-related illnesses — and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare."

"New Report: Adult Obesity Rates Hold Steady But Remain High." Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Press Release 08/15/2013.