America’s Most Obese States

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Obesity in the United States is a significant problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults in the U.S. are obese. That comes out to 78 million Americans.

Read: America’s Most Obese States

Obesity is also costly. As of 2008, it was estimated to cost the U.S. roughly $147 billion annually. Medical costs alone for each obese person were $1,429 more a year than those of healthy weight.

Between health risks and costs of care, the differences should encourage states to address the obesity epidemic. Based on the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 11 states with the highest obesity rates.

Obesity has been commonly tied to several groups, including low-income families and those with lower levels of higher education. While the relationship between these groups remains the subject of debate, most experts agree that they’re related. Nine of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the top fifteen for poverty rates. Of those 11, nine are in the bottom third for median income. All five of the states with the lowest median income — Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi, are on the list.

The major health risks associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, and heart disease, are some of the leading causes of preventable death. Of the 11 states with the highest self-reported obesity rates in the country, seven have among the highest death rates from heart disease, and nine are in the top one-third for both diabetes and stroke incidences.

Some areas of the country tend to suffer more from obesity than others.. Almost every state with 30% obesity or greater is in the South, with the exception of Indiana and Michigan. Three of the four worst states — Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama — are all adjacent to each other on the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, Gallup released its own obesity survey, which breaks down weight into more classes according to body mass index (BMI) categories. BMI is a calculation that takes into account a person’s height and weight. Overweight adults have a BMI of 25 to 29.99, and obese adults have a BMI of 30 or higher. The Gallup study, which was conducted over the first half of 2012, provides figures for the rate of obesity and overweight adults. Of the 11 states on our list, nine are in the top one-third with the highest combined overweight/obesity rate, including West Virginia, where nearly 70% adults fall into one of those two categories.

24/7 Wall St. examined the recent study released by the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to identify the 11 states which had the highest proportion of self-reported obesity among adult. 24/7 Wall St. also reviewed CDC data on obesity rates by state in 1996, as well as stroke prevalence by state in 2010. We relied on The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s for a variety of data related to health at the state level, including 2010 smoking, diabetes , medicare and life expectancy statistics. The Census Bureau provided information on median income by state, also for 2010. Gallup’s obesity poll, conducted for the first six months of 2012, looked at the percentage of adults that are overweight (BMI 20-30), or Obese types I, II, or III (BMI 30-34.99, 35-39.99, and 40 or more)