According to multiple studies, obesity — and even being overweight — can shave years off the average lifespan — up to 14 years in extreme obesity cases. Despite the known dangers, including many associated diseases, the U.S. obesity rate has doubled since the early 1960s, and today obesity is the second leading cause of premature death in the country. Most Americans today are at least overweight.
Obesity is highly prevalent throughout the country — at least one in five Americans are obese in every state. However, some areas of the country have much higher rates of obesity than others.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the adult obesity rate in every state. Southern states tend to have higher obesity rates and account for nine of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates. Louisiana tops the list with the highest obesity rate — some 36.2% of adult residents are considered obese. By contrast, 20.2% of adults in Colorado are obese, the lowest rate of any state.
While diet and exercise are the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy weight, other factors can also contribute to higher obesity rates. For example, states with the highest rates of obesity tend to have low incomes and high poverty rates. Residents who earn low incomes may not be able to afford a healthy diet, and they may have limited access to healthy foods as well as exercise opportunities.
For an individual on a tight budget, only the cheapest foods may be an option, yet many of the cheapest foods available are calorie-dense and nutritionally poor. A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables costs about $46 more per month than a less healthy diet.
It can also be difficult to maintain exercise habits in many of the states with high obesity rates. The percentages of adults who report no exercise during their leisure time are higher in these areas, likely due in part to lower access to exercise venues.
In Mississippi, the state with the third highest obesity rate, only 57.5% of residents live close to a place to exercise. On the other hand, in Colorado, the least obese state, 91.3% of the population lives within a 5-10 minute commute to a gym or park. Further, because Mississippi’s poverty rate is nearly double Colorado’s, even residents near a gym may not be able to afford a membership.
To identify the states with the highest rates of obesity, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2015 adult obesity rate in every state with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index over 30. The share of overweight — a BMI between 25-30 — adults, and the physical inactivity rate also came from the CDC. Premature death rates per 100,000 residents came from County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.
These are the states with the highest obesity rates.