Detailed Findings & Methodology
The causes of obesity differ from one person to the next with some, such as genetic predisposition, outside of an individual’s control. However, across broad populations, certain unhealthy behaviors tend to be more common in populations with higher obesity rates.
Regular physical exercise can reduce the likelihood of obesity. Areas in which larger shares of adults regularly engage in physical activities — such as jogging, biking, or even gardening — often report lower than average obesity rates. In most of the counties on this list, adult physical inactivity rates are higher than they are across their respective state as a whole.
Poor diet is another factor that can lead to obesity — and diet is often significantly affected by economic circumstances. Low-income Americans can afford fewer healthy options related to diet. Cheap foods available at fast food restaurants and convenience stores tend to be calorie heavy and provide far less nutrients than more pricey foods available at grocery stores, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Partially as a result, poorer populations appear to be at greater risk of obesity than higher-income populations. Forty-three of the 50 counties on this list have a higher poverty rate than the poverty rates across their respective states.
Areas with higher obesity rates also tend to report higher incidence rates of certain diseases and conditions. For example, Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that develops over many years, and is often the result of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles characterized by poor diet and inadequate physical activity. Of the 50 counties on this list, 46 are home to a larger share of adults with diabetes than the state as a whole.
To determine the most obese county in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed county-level obesity rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. Statewide obesity rates, physical activity rates, and diabetes prevalence for the same year also come from the CDC. We also considered poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey.