States With the Highest Obesity Rates

May 5, 2018 by Mike Sauter

Source: pixinoo / iStock
Health officials, school leaders, politicians and families continue to battle the nation’s obesity epidemic. But thus far, they appear to be losing. The U.S. obesity rate has doubled since the 1980s, and today obesity is the second leading cause of premature death in the country.

Most Americans today carry excessive weight: Some 35% of U.S. adults could be classified as overweight, and about 30% more are obese.

An elevated weight can pose harmful risks to the body. Obesity is clearly and directly correlated with some of the most serious health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

A preponderance of medical evidence suggests that obesity — and even being overweight — can shave years off a person’s lifespan. One National Institute of Health study found that life expectancy for an obese person is on average 14 years shorter than it is for someone with a healthier body mass.

While much remains unknown, doctors generally understand the underlying causes of obesity to be poor diet, a lack of sufficient exercise, certain genes, and environmental factors. In the United States, those factors vary substantially from one part of the country to the next, so much so that the obesity rates of two states can differ by 15 percentage points.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2016 obesity rates in all 50 states, as calculated by the Centers for Disease Control. States in the South, where nine of the 10 steepest rates appeared, have higher obesity rates than the rest of the country. Low obesity rates can be found across the country — especially in the Rocky Mountains region and the Northeast and on the West Coast.

Click here to see every state’s obesity rate.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Thinkstock

50. Colorado
> Adult obesity rate: 22.3%
> Adults overweight and obese: 58.1% (2nd smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 15.8% (2nd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 281.7 (7th lowest)

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49. Massachusetts
> Adult obesity rate: 23.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 60.3% (3rd smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.0% (11th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 279.1 (6th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

48. Hawaii
> Adult obesity rate: 23.8%
> Adults overweight and obese: 57.6% (the smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.8% (17th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 276.3 (4th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

47. California
> Adult obesity rate: 25.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 61.0% (6th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.5% (15th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 268.8 (3rd lowest)

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46. Utah
> Adult obesity rate: 25.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 60.4% (4th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 15.7% (the smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 292.4 (11th lowest)

Source: Prizrak 2084 / Wikimedia Commons

45. Montana
> Adult obesity rate: 25.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 62.8% (11th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 19.9% (10th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 345.4 (22nd highest)

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44. New York
> Adult obesity rate: 25.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 60.8% (5th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 26.3% (15th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 278.1 (5th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

43. Nevada
> Adult obesity rate: 25.8%)
> Adults overweight and obese: 62.3% (9th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 24.7% (19th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 363.4 (17th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

42. Connecticut
> Adult obesity rate: 26.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 61.9% (8th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 21.3% (18th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 268.3 (2nd lowest)

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Source: Thinkstock

41. New Hampshire
> Adult obesity rate: 26.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.5% (14th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 19.3% (8th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 301.8 (13th lowest)

Source: THinkstock

40. Rhode Island
> Adult obesity rate: 26.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.7% (16th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 24.4% (20th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 301.7 (12th lowest)

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39. Vermont
> Adult obesity rate: 27.1%
> Adults overweight and obese: 61.8% (7th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 19.5% (9th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 291.2 (10th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

38. Florida
> Adult obesity rate: 27.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.2% (12th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.8% (5th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 332.3 (25th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

37. Idaho
> Adult obesity rate: 27.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 64.5% (19th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.2% (13th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 306.6 (15th lowest)

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Source: Thinkstock

36. New Jersey
> Adult obesity rate: 27.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.9% (17th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.8% (5th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 283.4 (8th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

35. Wyoming
> Adult obesity rate: 27.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 64.2% (18th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.1% (23rd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 351.4 (19th highest)

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34. Minnesota
> Adult obesity rate: 27.8%
> Adults overweight and obese: 64.8% (21st smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 18.0% (5th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 263.1 (the lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

33. New Mexico
> Adult obesity rate: 28.3%
> Adults overweight and obese: 64.9% (22nd smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.3% (14th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 384.5 (13th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

32. Washington
> Adult obesity rate: 28.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.5% (14th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 17.6% (4th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 286.7 (9th lowest)

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Source: Thinkstock

31. Oregon
> Adult obesity rate: 28.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 62.6% (10th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 17.2% (3rd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 309.9 (17th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

30. Arizona
> Adult obesity rate: 29.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 63.2% (13th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.1% (23rd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 328.1 (24th lowest)

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29. Virginia
> Adult obesity rate: 29.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 65.5% (25th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.3% (25th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 316.7 (19th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

28. South Dakota
> Adult obesity rate: 29.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.9% (18th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 18.9% (6th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 328.4 (25th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

27. Maine
> Adult obesity rate: 29.9%
> Adults overweight and obese: 65.2% (24th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.6% (16th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 327.7 (23rd lowest)

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26. Maryland
> Adult obesity rate: 29.9%
> Adults overweight and obese: 64.6% (20th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.1% (23rd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 326.4 (22nd lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

25. Pennsylvania
> Adult obesity rate: 30.3%
> Adults overweight and obese: 65.5% (25th smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 22.9% (22nd smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 349.1 (20th highest)

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24. Delaware
> Adult obesity rate: 30.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.0% (13th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 26.6% (14th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 343.7 (23rd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

23. Wisconsin
> Adult obesity rate: 30.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.2% (23rd largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 20.0% (11th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 303.1 (14th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

22. Kansas
> Adult obesity rate: 31.2%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.8% (19th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.5% (23rd largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 345.6 (21st highest)

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21. Georgia
> Adult obesity rate: 31.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 65.8% (24th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.4% (7th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 380.2 (14th highest)

Source: Paxson Woelber / Flickr

20. Alaska
> Adult obesity rate: 31.4%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.7% (21st largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 19.1% (7th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 356.8 (18th highest)

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19. Ohio
> Adult obesity rate: 31.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.3% (22nd largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 25.9% (16th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 391.1 (11th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

18. Illinois
> Adult obesity rate: 31.6%
> Adults overweight and obese: 65.0% (23rd smallest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.9% (22nd largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 324.3 (21st lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

17. Missouri
> Adult obesity rate: 31.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 67.3% (16th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 24.9% (18th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 390.4 (12th highest)

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16. North Carolina
> Adult obesity rate: 31.8%
> Adults overweight and obese: 66.8% (20th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.3% (25th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 367.5 (15th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

15. North Dakota
> Adult obesity rate: 31.9%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.1% (12th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 22.2% (19th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 317.5 (20th lowest)

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14. Iowa
> Adult obesity rate: 32.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.7% (7th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 22.7% (21st smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 313.3 (18th lowest)

Source: Thinkstock

13. Nebraska
> Adult obesity rate: 32.0%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.6% (9th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 22.4% (20th smallest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 309.0 (16th lowest)

12. South Carolina
> Adult obesity rate: 32.3%
> Adults overweight and obese: 67.4% (15th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 26.9% (12th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 409.4 (9th highest)

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11. Indiana
> Adult obesity rate: 32.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 67.2% (17th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 26.8% (13th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 391.7 (10th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

10. Michigan
> Adult obesity rate: 32.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 67.5% (14th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 23.9% (22nd largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 363.6 (16th highest)

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9. Oklahoma
> Adult obesity rate: 32.8%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.8% (6th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 28.5% (10th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 459.4 (5th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

8. Texas
> Adult obesity rate: 33.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.5% (10th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 25.2% (17th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 341.3 (24th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

7. Kentucky
> Adult obesity rate: 34.2%
> Adults overweight and obese: 69.1% (5th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.8% (5th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 466.5 (4th highest)

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6. Tennessee
> Adult obesity rate: 34.8%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.6% (9th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 28.4% (11th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 441.4 (8th highest)

Source: Thinkstock

5. Louisiana
> Adult obesity rate: 35.5%
> Adults overweight and obese: 69.2% (4th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.1% (8th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 451.0 (7th highest)

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4. Alabama
> Adult obesity rate: 35.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 69.6% (3rd largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 29.4% (7th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 468.7 (3rd highest)

Source: Thinkstock

3. Arkansas
> Adult obesity rate: 35.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 68.2% (11th largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 32.5% (the largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 458.2 (6th highest)

Source: Stuart Seeger / Flickr

2. Mississippi
> Adult obesity rate: 37.3%
> Adults overweight and obese: 71.3% (the largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 30.3% (2nd largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 497.4 (the highest)

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Source: Thinkstock

1. West Virginia
> Adult obesity rate: 37.7%
> Adults overweight and obese: 71.0% (2nd largest)
> Adults who do not exercise: 28.5% (10th largest)
> Premature (before 75) deaths per 100K: 480.3 (2nd highest)

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.