Special Report

Most Obese States in America

Obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. The condition has even been described as a leading cause of preventable death in the country because certain obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers are killing as many as 500,000 people every year in America – and obesity is also a major risk factor for COVID-based mortality. In addition, obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24/7 Tempo has identified the most obese states in the country. States are ranked by the share of its adult residents who are considered obese, from the smallest to the largest percentage. Data on obesity – based on the number of adults 20 years and older with a body mass index of 30 and above – is self-reported and comes from the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The states with the highest obesity rates are concentrated in the South, while those with the lowest are in the West and Northeast. At least 35% of adults in some 19 states are obese, which is double the number of states with that rate in 2018, and up from 16 states in 2021, according to the CDC.

One perhaps surprising factor that influences obesity is Insufficient sleep – defined as sleeping less than seven hours per night on average. Sleep deprivation messes with the two hormones that control appetite – ghrelin, which tells you you’re hungry, and leptin, which tells you you’re full. Seven of the 19 states with the highest obesity rates report a higher incidence of insufficient sleep than the country as a whole. (These, on the other hand, are the states where people are getting the most sleep.)

With obesity rates rising in the U.S. over the last few decades to epidemic levels, misconceptions about the condition have spread, too. Here are the 16 most stubborn myths about obesity that need to go away.

Click here to see the most obese states in America


To determine the most obese state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on obesity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. States were ranked based on the prevalence of self-reported obesity among adults 20 years and older – with obesity being defined as having a body mass index of 30.0 and above – in the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Supplemental data on the percentage of adults 18 and over who report no leisure time activity (including exercise) in 2019, the percentage of adults 20 and above with diagnosed diabetes in 2019, and the percentage of adults 18 and over who report fewer than seven hours of sleep on average in 2018 came from the 2022 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

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