The average life expectancy of moderately obese people is about three years shorter than it is for the average American. At the extreme, severe obesity can lower life expectancy by 10 years. Approximately 36.5% of American adults are obese. Only smoking causes more premature death than obesity in the United States.
The prevalence of obesity varies dramatically throughout the country. Western and Northeastern states tend to have lower rates of obesity, while in Southern states obesity is highest. Even within states, obesity rates are far from uniform.
Within Virginia, for example, rates vary from 16.1% in Arlington County to 41.4% in Petersburg City, a county equivalent. This is the widest difference of any state. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most obese county in every state.
Obesity is most commonly measured using a ratio between a person’s weight and height called the body mass index, or BMI. A BMI equal to or greater than 30 is considered obese. The most obese county in America is Claiborne County, Mississippi, where 47.6% of adults are obese.
Diet and exercise are well-established as the most important factors in maintaining a healthy weight. A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables tends to cost more than an unhealthy diet consisting of processed foods and refined grains. Areas with high poverty rates tend to have a smaller share of residents that have access to areas of exercise such as parks or fitness centers, and low-income individuals are less likely to be able to afford a gym membership.
In 43 states, the county with the largest share of obese adults has a higher poverty rate than the state as a whole.
Because of obesity, the counties on this list have a higher prevalence of many health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. In 1993, roughly 3% of Americans had diabetes. As obesity rates increased, diabetes prevalence more than doubled over the next 20 years.
In 45 of the 50 counties the incidence of diabetes is higher than the statewide rate. In Alabama’s most obese county, more than 20% of residents have diabetes. This compares to the statewide incidence of 13.8%, itself well above the 7.0% of people nationwide with the condition.
To determine the most obese county in every state, 24/7 Wall St reviewed 2013 county-level obesity rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Statewide obesity rates, physical activity rates, and diabetes prevalence for the same year also come from the CDC.
This is the most obese county in every state.