Recent public health crises, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic, have overshadowed a longer-standing problem in the United States — obesity. Since the early 1960s, the share of American adults under age 75 who are considered obese more than tripled. Currently, an estimated 72.2 million Americans age 20 and up are obese, or 30% of the age group.
Obesity status is determined by body mass index, or BMI — a ratio of height to body weight. Americans with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese, and as such, are at greater risk of diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease, breathing problems, certain cancers, and mortality, according to the CDC. Obesity can also detract from overall quality of life and contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
Using data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 24/7 Tempo identified the most obese states in the country. States are ranked by the share of adults who are considered obese, from the smallest to the largest.
States with the highest obesity rates are concentrated in the South, while those with the lowest obesity rates are in the West and Northeast.
Though many factors, including genetics, diet, and medical conditions, contribute to increased risk of obesity, regular physical activity is one of the best ways to help maintain a healthy weight. In states where obesity is more common, the share of adults who do not exercise regularly is usually higher than the 22.7% share of adults nationwide. Similarly, states with lower obesity rates typically have more physically active populations. Here is a look at the most physically active cities in America.
By some measures, health outcomes are worse than average in states with high obesity rates. For example, obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and in most states where a larger than average share of adults are obese, adult diabetes rates are also higher than the 10.5% national rate.