Special Report

This Is Where West Virginia Ranks Among the Most Obese States in America

The obesity epidemic in the U.S. is a major health issue, and it’s getting worse. The current national adult obesity rate is 29.7%, but almost half of adults are projected to be obese, not just overweight, by 2030, according to Harvard researchers estimates published in December 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While the country as a whole is facing an obesity crisis, the problem is much more pronounced in some states.

West Virginia is the state with the second highest adult obesity rate in the U.S. About 37.8% of adult residents report a body mass index of 30 or greater. High obesity rates can detrimentally affect health.

About 23.6% of adults in West Virginia report being in poor or fair health, the highest share in the U.S. Nationwide, 17.0% of adults report subpar health.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and 15.1% of West Virginia residents over the age of 20 have diabetes, the highest share of all states. The diabetes prevalence across the country among the same age group is 10.5%

There are a multitude of social and economic factors that predispose certain populations to higher obesity rates. People with lower incomes are less able to afford proper medical care and healthy lifestyles, which include eating a healthy diet and having easy access to gyms and other options for physical activity.

The median household income in West Virginia is $48,850 a year, the second lowest in the U.S. and $16,862 less than the median across the country of $65,712 a year.

Insufficient sleep, defined as sleeping less than seven hours per night on average, has been shown to be a contributing factor to obesity. Sleep deprivation interferes with the two hormones that control appetite. Lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of ghrelin (increased appetite) and decreased levels of leptin (diminished feeling of fullness), possibly leading to weight gain.

About 42.5% of adults in West Virginia report not getting enough sleep, the second highest share in the U.S. and compared to 35.2% of U.S. adults.

Health experts have pointed to several lifestyle factors that are likely contributing to the excess weight problem among Americans, including a sedentary lifestyle. The physical inactivity rate in West Virginia is 28.0%, the fifth highest in the U.S. Nationwide, 22.7% of adults don’t exercise on a regular basis.

To identify the most obese states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed health data from the 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program. These are the most obese states in America

 

State Adult obesity rate Pop. Over 20 with diabetes Adults in poor or fair health Adults who don’t exercise regularly Median household income a year
Mississippi 39.1% 14.6% 22.1% 30.4% 45,792
West Virginia 37.8% 15.1% 23.6% 28.0% 48,850
Louisiana 36.3% 13.0% 21.4% 28.0% 51,073
Alabama 36.1% 14.5% 21.4% 29.3% 51,734
Arkansas 35.0% 13.5% 23.3% 30.4% 48,952
Kentucky 34.6% 12.7% 21.8% 28.7% 52,295
Oklahoma 34.5% 12.3% 20.9% 27.8% 54,449
Iowa 34.3% 9.9% 13.5% 22.6% 61,691
South Carolina 34.0% 13.3% 17.8% 26.0% 56,227
Indiana 33.9% 12.1% 18.2% 26.7% 57,603
North Dakota 33.9% 9.4% 13.6% 23.1% 64,577
Ohio 33.5% 12.2% 17.8% 26.1% 58,642
Nebraska 33.4% 10.0% 13.8% 22.7% 63,229
Tennessee 33.3% 12.5% 21.2% 27.2% 56,071
Kansas 33.0% 10.5% 16.3% 23.9% 62,087
Missouri 32.5% 11.4% 19.5% 25.5% 57,409
Michigan 32.4% 11.0% 18.3% 23.1% 59,584
Delaware 32.4% 11.8% 16.3% 27.3% 70,176
South Dakota 32.4% 10.1% 13.4% 22.0% 59,533
North Carolina 32.3% 11.5% 18.0% 23.3% 57,341
Georgia 32.3% 12.0% 18.4% 26.4% 61,980
Alaska 31.9% 8.3% 15.6% 19.3% 75,463
Wisconsin 31.7% 9.5% 14.8% 20.3% 64,168
Maryland 31.6% 11.1% 15.2% 21.9% 86,738
Texas 31.4% 10.2% 18.7% 23.2% 64,034
Pennsylvania 30.8% 11.0% 17.6% 22.0% 63,463
Virginia 30.5% 10.7% 16.6% 22.2% 76,456
Maine 29.8% 10.4% 17.1% 20.8% 58,924
Illinois 29.7% 9.9% 15.9% 21.6% 69,187
Oregon 29.3% 9.7% 18.2% 17.3% 67,058
Wyoming 29.2% 9.0% 15.3% 23.1% 65,003
Idaho 29.0% 9.3% 15.1% 20.4% 60,999
Minnesota 29.0% 8.5% 12.9% 19.6% 74,593
Washington 28.6% 9.3% 15.0% 16.4% 78,687
New Hampshire 28.6% 9.6% 12.8% 20.8% 77,933
Rhode Island 28.5% 10.1% 16.5% 23.5% 71,169
Arizona 27.9% 9.6% 18.6% 21.2% 62,055
New Mexico 27.3% 9.5% 20.3% 19.0% 51,945
Florida 27.2% 10.8% 19.5% 25.8% 59,227
Montana 27.1% 8.9% 14.1% 21.7% 57,153
Nevada 27.1% 10.5% 19.1% 22.5% 63,276
Vermont 27.0% 8.8% 12.8% 18.4% 63,001
Utah 27.0% 7.5% 14.8% 16.7% 75,780
New Jersey 27.0% 9.9% 15.5% 26.6% 85,751
New York 26.4% 10.1% 16.3% 23.4% 72,108
Connecticut 26.3% 9.2% 13.0% 19.9% 78,833
Massachusetts 25.0% 8.7% 13.5% 20.0% 85,843
Hawaii 24.6% 11.1% 15.4% 19.6% 83,102
California 24.3% 8.8% 17.6% 17.7% 80,440
Colorado 22.4% 6.6% 13.8% 14.8% 77,127