Special Report

The States With the Highest (and Lowest) Obesity Rates

The States With the Lowest Obesity Rates

10. Minnesota
> Obesity rate:
25.5%
> Pct. physically inactive: 19.3% (8th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 7.6% (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (7th lowest)

While more than 28% of Americans were obese in 2013, just over one-quarter of Minnesota residents were, the 10th lowest obesity rate nationwide. As in many other states, the low obesity rate in Minnesota is associated with a low incidence of several other negative health outcomes, many of which can be direct consequences of unhealthy weight gain. There were just 119.6 heart-related deaths per 100,000 Minnesota residents, for example, the lowest rate nationwide. In addition, state residents were relatively well-educated and had relatively high incomes, factors that help pave the way towards a healthy lifestyle. More than 92% of adults had completed at least high school, and the median household earned $60,702 annually, both among the highest figures in the country.

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9. New York
> Obesity rate:
25.4%
> Pct. physically inactive: 23.5% (24th highest)
> Pct. diabetic: 9.4% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (20th highest)

One factor contributing to the state’s low obesity rate may be New York City, which represents more than 40% of the state population. The city’s residents tend to be healthier than the average American. There are many potential reasons for this, including healthier habits and exercise. More than 10% of the city’s population walks to work, third-most among major U.S. cities. The state, however, has higher rates of many health issues normally associated with high-obesity states. Adults reported the ninth-lowest obesity rate but the 14th-highest rate of heart disease-related deaths. New York is in the midst of a long-term plan to reduce preventable deaths, and fighting obesity is an integral part of the plan.

8. Connecticut
> Obesity rate:
25.0%
> Pct. physically inactive: 21.7% (18th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 8.5% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (4th lowest)

High incomes in Connecticut improved access to medical care and likely provided residents with more healthy lifestyles options. The state’s median household income of $67,098 was the fifth highest in the country. Similarly, just as the challenges of living in poverty can lead to poor health outcomes, the relatively low poverty rate of 10.7% in Connecticut likely helped lower incidence of such outcomes across the state. There were about 216 cardiovascular deaths between 2010 and 2012 in the state, for example, one of the lowest figures nationwide. In addition, like many other states with the lowest obesity rates, Connecticut residents had relatively healthy diets. While nearly 38% of Americans reported eating fruit less than once a day, only 32% of Connecticut residents reported such low fruit intake, the sixth lowest such percentage.

7. Vermont
> Obesity rate:
24.7%
> Pct. physically inactive: 18.4% (7th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 7.6% (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.3% (12th lowest)

Healthy diets and exercise helped lower the incidence of obesity in Vermont. Just over 18% of Vermonters reported eating vegetables less than once a day, nearly the lowest percentage in the nation. Also, just 18.4% did not participate in any exercise activity in the past 30 days, also one of the lowest such percentages. Nearly 36% of adults in the state had completed at least a bachelor’s degree — one of the highest attainment rates compared with other states, which likely helped improve health literacy and lower the likelihood of unhealthy weight gain. While the low obesity rate among Vermonters accompanied a lower incidence of other negative health outcomes, the state’s cancer death rate of 195.6 per 100,000 people was exceptionally high compared with other states on this list.

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6. Montana
> Obesity rate:
24.6%
> Pct. physically inactive: 22.0% (19th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 7.6% (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (19th highest)

Montana’s median household income of $46,972 was lower than the national figure, the only state with a low obesity rate to have a lower median household income than the national figure of $52,250. Other factors such as strong educational attainment rates likely contributed to the low obesity rate. Nearly 93% of adults had completed at least high school, the third-highest rate nationwide. Such high educational attainment may have helped raise health literacy among the state’s population, which may have helped lower the chances of unhealthy weight gain. The incidence of diabetes — a disease linked to high levels of obesity — was the lowest in the nation, with diagnosed cases in just 6.2% of the population.