Special Report

The States With the Highest (and Lowest) Obesity Rates

The States With the Highest Obesity Rates

10. South Carolina
> Obesity rate:
31.7%
> Pct. physically inactive: 25.6% (12th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 12.0% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.6% (8th highest)

Nearly 32% of South Carolina adults were obese in 2013, the 10th highest rate nationwide. As in most states with the highest obesity rates, South Carolina residents were among the least likely to consume fresh produce on a regular basis. More than 27% of residents reported less than daily vegetable consumption, and 44.4% reported less than daily fruit consumption, the fourth and eighth highest percentages in the country, respectively. The relatively poor eating habits among residents may have contributed to the high obesity rate in the state, which in turn may have led to poor health outcomes. While 31.4% of Americans had high blood pressure, more than 38.4% of South Carolina residents suffered from the condition.

ALSO READ: The Least Healthy County in Each State

9. Indiana
> Obesity rate:
31.8%
> Pct. physically inactive: 26.8% (9th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 10.8% (11th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.9% (22nd highest)

Indiana’s obesity rate has hovered between 30% and 32% in each of the past three years. Although high poverty rates and obesity rates tend to go hand-in-hand, the state’s poverty rate of 15.9% was only slightly higher than the national rate. Dietary choices may be a factor in the state’s obesity problem. Of the state’s adults surveyed, 27.3% reported eating vegetables less than once per day, tied for fourth-worst in the nation. Citing the obesity epidemic in the state, Indiana’s House Speaker Brian Bosma recently drafted a measure to support “Change The Play” program. The program intends to improve childhood obesity by encouraging physical activity and healthier food choices.

8. Alabama
> Obesity rate:
32.4%
> Pct. physically inactive: 29.4% (7th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 12.9% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (7th highest)

Low incomes are tied to poor health outcomes. Not only do higher-paying jobs tend to offer better benefits such as health insurance, but also lower income Americans frequently live in areas with limited access to healthy foods and grocery stores. Like most states with the highest obesity rates, Alabama’s median household income of $42,849 was nearly the lowest in the country. Poor diets likely contributed to Alabama’s eighth-highest obesity rate of 32.4%, as well as to the nation-leading 44.4% of area residents reporting high cholesterol.

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7. Oklahoma
> Obesity rate:
32.5%
> Pct. physically inactive: 30.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 11.5% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.8% (16th highest)

Poor eating habits have likely been a factor in Oklahoma’s outstanding obesity issues. The state’s fruit and vegetable intakes were among the lowest in the country. A lack of exercise was also likely a factor in the state’s high obesity rate. In Oklahoma, 30% of residents reported being generally physically inactive, higher than the 23% of physically inactive Americans. The poor health choices and high obesity rate likely contributed to poor health outcomes among state residents. The prevalences of high blood pressure and high cholesterol among state residents were among the highest in the country. And the state had the second-highest rate of heart disease-related deaths in the U.S.

6. Louisiana
> Obesity rate:
33.1%
> Pct. physically inactive: 29.9% (6th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 12.1% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)

Low educational attainment rates in Louisiana may partly account for the state’s high obesity rate of 33.1%. A good education can improve health literacy and offer better job prospects, both of which can pave the way to healthier lifestyles. In Louisiana, however, 83.1% had completed at least high school and 22.5% had at least a bachelor’s degree, each nearly the lowest rates, respectively, of all states. Residents reported relatively poor eating habits. While less than 23% of Americans consumed vegetables less than once a day, as many as 32.5% of Louisiana residents reported such low vegetable intake — the highest rate in the country.

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