Special Report

States With the Highest Obesity Rates

Detailed Findings & Methodology

While diet and exercise are key to maintaining a healthy weight, other factors can also contribute to obesity. For example, the states with the highest obesity rates have steeper poverty rates and more residents with lower incomes. Those living on meager incomes may not be able to afford a healthy diet and might have limited access to healthy foods and exercise opportunities.

Only the cheapest foods might be an option for someone on a tight budget, yet many of the mostly widely available inexpensive foods are calorie rich and nutritionally poor. A healthful diet loaded with fruits and vegetables costs significantly more a month than a less healthful one.

Maintaining good exercise habits in many of the states with high obesity rates can be a challenge. These areas have higher percentages of adults reporting that they do no leisure-time exercise; this may partly result from their limited access to exercise venues.

In Mississippi, the state with the second highest obesity rate, only 57.7% of residents live close to a place to exercise. On the other hand, in Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity rate, 91.2% of the population lives within a 5- to 10-minute commute to a gym or park. Plus, because their poverty rate is nearly double Colorado’s, even Mississippians residing near a gym might not be able to afford a membership.

To identify the states with the highest rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed their 2016 adult obesity rates, calculated 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 higher than 30. This CDC survey data also provided for each state the percentage of overweight adults (those with a BMI of 25 to 30), residents’ rate of physical inactivity, and the percentage of adults eating less than one fruit or vegetable a day. The premature death rates per 100,000 residents came from the 2018 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, a joint program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. The U.S Census’ American Community Survey for 2016 served as the source for our median household income and poverty rate figures.