Special Report

The States With the Highest (and Lowest) Obesity Rates

5. California
> Obesity rate:
24.1%
> Pct. physically inactive: 16.8% (4th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 8.1% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.8% (16th highest)

California’s population makes, on average, healthier choices than the nation as a whole, a fact that likely has helped the state maintain one of the lowest obesity rates in the country. Just 16.5% of the state’s adults failed to eat at least one vegetable per day, and only 30.4% ate less than one fruit per day, both rates were second-lowest in the nation. Barely one in six adults reported being physically inactive recently, fewer than in all but a handful of states. Higher education attainment rates have been shown to be related to healthier lifestyles and lower obesity. California, however, had the worst rate of adults with at least a high school degree in the country. Nearly one out of every five adults lacked this degree, compared to 13.7% nationwide.

4. Utah
> Obesity rate:
24.1%
> Pct. physically inactive: 16.6% (3rd lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 7.0% (3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (15th lowest)

High blood pressure and cholesterol are strongly associated with obesity. In Utah, which had the nation’s fourth lowest obesity rate, just over 24% of residents reported high blood pressure, and just over 33% reported high cholesterol, both the lowest rates nationwide. Frequent exercise among Utah residents likely helped lower the incidence of obesity and its associated health conditions. Less than 17% did not participate in any physical activity in the past 30 days, nearly the lowest percentage in the country.

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3. Massachusetts
> Obesity rate:
23.6%
> Pct. physically inactive: 21.4% (16th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 8.9% (22nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (11th lowest)

Childhood obesity appears to be slightly more of a problem in Massachusetts. While the state had the third lowest obesity rate among adults, it had only the 13th lowest obesity rate among students in grades 9-12. More than 40% of the state’s adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher, the highest in the nation and more than 10 percentage points above the national rate. Massachusetts’ median income of $66,768 was sixth highest in the country. The relatively wealthier state population was able to afford healthier food and exercise options, and their education likely helped them make healthier choices. Massachusetts’ fruit and vegetable intake and exercise rates among adults were all better than the national measures.

2. Hawaii
> Obesity rate:
21.8%
> Pct. physically inactive: 18.2% (6th lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 8.3% (10th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (5th lowest)

Even with the exceptionally high cost of living in Hawaii, residents were wealthy compared to most Americans. The median household income of $68,020 was the fourth highest nationwide. High incomes likely helped residents live healthier lifestyles. In addition, Hawaii residents may find more exercise opportunities than in other U.S. regions, as outdoor sports and other activities can be done nearly year-round. The average temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Just over 18% of residents reported physical inactivity in the past 30 days, one of the lowest proportions in the country. The low obesity rate accompanied a relatively low prevalence of several other poor health outcomes. There were 139 heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 people, for example, nearly the lowest such rate in the country.

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1. Colorado
> Obesity rate:
21.3%
> Pct. physically inactive: 15.2% (the lowest)
> Pct. diabetic: 6.2% (the lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (16th lowest)

Colorado’s obesity rate of 21.3% was the lowest of all states and considerably lower than the national rate. Frequent exercise may have helped keep the state’s residents in shape. Just 15.2% did not participate in any physical exercise in the past 30 days, the lowest percentage in the nation. Residents also had relatively healthy diets. Less than one in five Colorado residents reported less-than-daily vegetable consumption, one of the lowest shares compared to other states. As a result of the healthy habits, and in turn, the low obesity rate, the state had extremely low rates of the diseases commonly associated with obesity. Colorado was ranked in the bottom three for cardiovascular deaths per 100,000, cancer deaths per 100,000, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Click here to see the states with the highest obesity rates.