Obesity Rates Remain High, Study Finds

Obesity Rates Remain High, Study Finds

Obesity rates in the United States remained high in 2013, though with significant geographic, racial/ethnic, and income disparities, a report from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.

The report, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America (136 pages, PDF), found that as of 2011-12, 68.5 percent of American adults were considered overweight or obese; 34.9 percent were considered obese; and 6 percent were considered severely obese. In 2013, adult obesity rates were above 25 percent in forty-two states and above 30 percent in twenty states — compared to forty-one states and thirteen states in 2012 — and exceeded 35 percent in two states, Mississippi and West Virginia. The report also found that between 2012 and 2013, adult obesity rates showed statistically significant increases in Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming, while declining in no states; that nine of the ten states with the highest adult obesity rates were in the South; and that more than 33 percent of adults who earned less than $15,000 a year were obese, compared with 25.4 percent of those who earned at least $50,000 a year.

While the report notes that the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, with declines in some areas, as of 2011-12, 31.8 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 were overweight or obese, including 8.4 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 who were obese. Severe obesity among children may be on the rise, the report further notes, with rates increasing from more than 2 percent among young children (ages 2 to 5) to 6.5 percent among teenagers (ages 12 to 19).

The report also noted that racial/ethnic disparities in obesity rates persist, with higher rates among African Americans and Latinos for both adults and children. In 2013, the adult obesity rate among African Americans was at least 40 percent in eleven states, at least 35 percent in twenty-nine states, and at least 30 percent in forty-one states; the rate among Latinos was at least 35 percent in five states and at least 30 percent in twenty-three states; and the rate among whites was at least 30 percent in ten states. As of 2011-12, childhood obesity rates were 22.4 percent among Latinos, 20.2 percent among African Americans, and 14.1 percent among whites.

"While adult rates are stabilizing in many states, these data suggest that our overall progress in reversing America’s obesity epidemic is uneven and fragile," said RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "A growing number of cities and states have reported decreases in obesity among children, showing that when we make comprehensive changes to policies and community environments, we can build a 'Culture of Health' that makes healthy choices the easy and obvious choices for kids and adults alike. Going forward, we must spread what works to prevent obesity to every state and region, with special focus on those communities where rates remain the highest."

"New Report Finds Adult Obesity Rates Increased in Six States." Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Press Release 09/04/2014.