Healthcare Economy

Mississippi's Obesity Rate Is Over 40%, the Highest in America

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its 2019 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps for 49 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. Obesity is defined as an adult body mass index over 30. The American figure has continued to rise, year after year, decade after decade. Mississippi had the highest level of obesity at 40.8%. It was joined at the top of the list by several other southern states.

The CDC takes a great deal of interest in obesity because of the health care problems it tends to trigger. Among these are heart disease and diabetes. Many forms of cancer are linked to obesity as well. A recent Harvard study showed that obesity costs the American economy $190 billion each year. This includes health care costs, lost wages, lost work (which affects companies who employ obese people) and insurance. Presumably, as the obesity figures rise, so do the costs.

The obesity rate was 35% or higher in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Most are south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Obesity tends to be linked with education and age, the CDC reports. Adults who do not have a high school degree or equivalent had the highest obesity rates at 36.2%. High school graduates posted a 34.3% number. Adults with some college education had a 32.8% obesity rate. For college graduates, the figure was 25.0%.

The obesity figures are “self-reported,” which means people supplied their own weight. That calls into question, at least a bit, the accuracy of the figures. Surveys that rely on self-reported data are less expensive than those in which a more rigorous methodology is used. However, as an article in Science Direct pointed out: “For a given true health status, individuals are likely to use different reference points depending on their demographic and socio-economic characteristics.” It is not so much that some people lie, as that they misinterpret then own health status.

In terms of age, adults between 18 and 24 years old had an obesity rate of 18.9%. Adults between aged 45 to 54 years old had a rate of 37.6%.

Among the connections made between the demographic groups and geographic areas is that people in southern states tended to have lower education status and, therefore, are more likely to be obese. It is probably not the other way around. Some scientists say that the accuracy of the relationship would need to be much more carefully cemented by additional research.

Here are the states and territories, ranked by obesity rate:

State/Territory Obesity Rate
Mississippi 40.8
West Virginia 39.7
Arkansas 37.4
Oklahoma 36.8
Kentucky 36.5
Tennessee 36.5
Alabama 36.1
Michigan 36.0
Louisiana 35.9
South Carolina 35.4
Indiana 35.3
Kansas 35.2
Missouri 34.8
North Dakota 34.8
Ohio 34.8
Delaware 34.4
Wisconsin 34.2
Nebraska 34.1
North Carolina 34.0
Texas 34.0
Iowa 33.9
Guam 33.6
Pennsylvania 33.2
Georgia 33.1
South Dakota 33.0
Puerto Rico 32.5
Maryland 32.3
Virginia 31.9
New Hampshire 31.8
Maine 31.7
New Mexico 31.7
Illinois 31.6
Arizona 31.4
Nevada 30.6
Alaska 30.5
Minnesota 30.1
Rhode Island 30.0
Wyoming 29.7
Idaho 29.5
Utah 29.2
Connecticut 29.1
Oregon 29.0
Montana 28.3
Washington 28.3
New York 27.1
Florida 27.0
Vermont 26.6
California 26.2
Massachusetts 25.2
Hawaii 25.0
Colorado 23.8
District of Columbia 23.8

Note: There was insufficient data from New Jersey.