Healthcare Economy

The Fattest States in America

10. Oklahoma
> Pct. obese: 30.5%
> Pct. with high blood pressure: 34.0% (9th most)
> Pct. exercise regularly: 50.7% (16th least)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (15th highest)

More than three in 10 Oklahomans were considered obese last year. Poor eating habits may be one factor. Slightly more than half of the state’s residents said they ate adequate portions of fruits and vegetables last year, the worst in the nation. Less than 59% of Oklahomans said they ate healthy on a daily basis in 2013, also among the worst nationally. The state’s high obesity rate may partly explain the prevalence of heart-related ailments in the state. In 2010, there were 235.2 deaths per 100,000 state residents, more than in any state except for Mississippi and Alabama. Also, a greater proportion of Oklahomans reported having previously had a heart attack than residents in any other state last year.

9. Kentucky
> Pct. obese: 30.6%
> Pct. with high blood pressure: 35.0% (7th most)
> Pct. exercise regularly: 50.5% (tied for 14th least)
> Poverty rate: 19.4% (5th highest)

Unhealthy habits contributed to obesity levels among Kentucky residents. More than 30% of Kentuckians smoked cigarettes last year, the highest rate in the nation. Studies show that smoking can both discourage and decrease the effectiveness of physical activity. Poor eating habits also likely contributed to the state’s high obesity rate. Only 58.5% of state residents ate healthy all day, worst in the nation. Like many states with high obesity rates, Kentucky had some of the lowest income and highest poverty rates. The state’s $41,724 median household income was the fifth lowest in the United States, and nearly one in five residents lived below the poverty level last year.

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8. Ohio
> Pct. obese: 30.9%
> Pct. with high blood pressure: 31.8% (16th most)
> Pct. exercise regularly: 49.3% (7th least)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (20th highest)

Ohio residents generally reported having good access to health care services. Last year, 82% had a personal doctor and more than 87% had health insurance, both among the best rates nationwide. While access to physicians typically is a key predictor of obesity rates, according to Gallup’s Dan Witters, Ohio still had one of the highest obesity rates in the country. Like most of the states with high obesity rates, many state residents were unable to engage in age-appropriate activities due to health concerns. Adding to the health problems already caused by the high obesity rate is the state’s high smoking rate. About one-quarter of the population were smokers as of last year, more than all but a handful of states.

7. Tennessee
> Pct. obese: 31.3%
> Pct. with high blood pressure: 36.0% (5th most)
> Pct. exercise regularly: 49.2% (6th least)
> Poverty rate: 17.9% (11th highest)

Given the state’s high obesity rate, it is perhaps not surprising that residents were more likely to suffer from a range of health problems. Last year, 36% of people surveyed reported having high blood pressure, while 29.4% of respondents said they had high cholesterol, both among the highest in the country. Also, nearly 15% of those surveyed suffered from diabetes, and more than 5% of people had previously had a heart attack, both especially high rates. Like several states struggling with obesity, educational attainment rates were poor in Tennessee. Just 85.1% of adults had at least a high school diploma in 2012, among the worst.

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6. South Carolina
> Pct. obese: 31.4%
> Pct. with high blood pressure: 33.0% (12th most)
> Pct. exercise regularly: 49.7% (10th least)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (9th highest)

South Carolina is another example of the close relationship between low income and obesity. More than 31% of state residents were obese, the sixth highest rate in the nation, while 18.3% lived below the poverty line last year, the ninth highest in the nation. Additionally, 21.3% of residents did not have enough money to buy food at all times last year, the highest percentage in the United States. Residents of the states suffered from numerous health problems often associated with being overweight. Some 33% of state residents had high blood pressure, among the worst in the nation, and 27.5% of residents suffered from recurring knee and leg pain, symptoms that can be linked to obesity.