The Fattest States In America

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First Lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity in 2010. The campaign aimed to “solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.” The first five years of that campaign have seen only modest success, and that success has been limited to children ages 2 through 5.

Obesity prevalence has also leveled off among children ages 6 to 10. Among adolescents ages 12 to 19, however, obesity prevalence has increased.

The results of a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate how difficult the problem of obesity is to solve. The JAMA study included both expected and unexpected trends:

  • For the years 2013 to 2014, unadjusted prevalence of obesity in American men was 35.2% compared with 40.5% among women; up from 34% of men and 38% of women 10 years earlier
  • For both men and women, obesity prevalence varied by race/Hispanic origin
  • For men, prevalence of obesity among smokers was significantly lower than among men who had never smoked; among women, there was no significant difference
  • Women with more than a high school education were significantly less likely to be obese

In another study, The State of Obesity, jointly published in September 2015 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher is cited:

On one level, the problem is simple. Americans continue to eat too much, especially foods with excess calories and few nutrients. We don’t get enough physical activity, and spend too much time in our cars or in front of our various digital screens… But the obesity crisis [will] not be solved by treating it as a personal failing…

Healthy affordable can be scarce in some neighborhoods in addition to being more expensive than processed food. This and other obstacles most often affect lower income people with less education and who happen to be racial minorities. As the study notes, “Where families live, learn, work and play all have a major impact on the choices they are able to make.

In both the JAMA report and The State of Obesity study, a person’s body mass index (BMI) is calculated and obesity levels are determined by the index score. The BMI is equal to a person’s weight (in pounds) divided by the square (in inches) of his or her height multiplied by a conversion factor of 703. In the metric system the formula is simply weight in kilograms divided by height squared.

According to The State of Obesity study, rates of obesity now exceed 35% in three states (Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi), 22 states have rates above 30%, 45 states are above 25%, and every state is above 20%. Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9%, while Colorado has the lowest at 21.3%. The data show that 23 of 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest.

The following chart lists the 50 states and the District of Columbia from highest to lowest in adult obesity rate.

Rank
State
Adult Obesity Rate 2014
95% Confidence Interval
1 Arkansas
35.9%
+/- 2.1%
2 West Virginia
35.7%
+/- 1.5%
3 Mississippi
35.5%
+/- 2.1%
4 Louisiana
34.9%
+/- 1.5%
5 Alabama
33.5%
+/- 1.5%
6 Oklahoma
33.0%
+/- 1.3%
7 Indiana
32.7%
+/- 1.2%
8 Ohio
32.6%
+/- 1.5%
9 North Dakota
32.2%
+/- 1.8%
10 South Carolina
32.1%
+/- 1.2%
11 Texas
31.9%
+/- 1.4%
12 Kentucky
31.6%
+/- 1.5%
13 Kansas
31.3%
+/- 1.0%
14 Wisconsin
31.2%
+/- 1.6%
14 Tennessee
31.2%
+/- 2.0%
16 Iowa
30.9%
+/- 1.4%
17 Delaware
30.7%
+/- 2.1%
17 Michigan
30.7%
+/- 1.3%
19 Georgia
30.5%
+/- 1.6%
20 Nebraska
30.2%
+/- 1.1%
20 Pennsylvania
30.2%
+/- 1.3%
20 Missouri
30.2%
+/- 1.7%
23 South Dakota
29.8%
+/- 2.0%
24 Alaska
29.7%
+/- 2.0%
24 North Carolina
29.7%
+/- 1.3%
26 Maryland
29.6%
+/- 1.5%
27 Wyoming
29.5%
+/- 2.0%
28 Illinois
29.3%
+/- 1.8%
29 Arizona
28.9%
+/- 1.3%
29 Idaho
28.9%
+/- 1.9%
31 Virginia
28.5%
+/- 1.3%
32 New Mexico
28.4%
+/- 1.5%
33 Maine
28.2%
+/- 1.3%
34 Oregon
27.9%
+/- 1.7%
35 Nevada
27.7%
+/- 2.4%
36 Minnesota
27.6%
+/- 0.9%
37 New Hampshire
27.4%
+/- 1.7%
38 Washington
27.3%
+/- 1.3%
39 New York
27.0%
+/- 1.5%
39 Rhode Island
27.0%
+/- 1.6%
41 New Jersey
26.9%
+/- 1.2%
42 Montana
26.4%
+/- 1.5%
43 Connecticut
26.3%
+/- 1.4%
44 Florida
26.2%
+/- 1.3%
45 Utah
25.7%
+/- 0.9%
46 Vermont
24.8%
+/- 1.3%
47 California
24.7%
+/- 1.2%
48 Massachusetts
23.3%
+/- 1.1%
49 Hawaii
22.1%
+/- 1.4%
50 District of Columbia
21.7%
+/- 2.3%
51 Colorado
21.3%
+/- 0.9%