Obesity continues to be a problem in the United States and many parts of the world. New data shows that the number of U.S. states with high rates of adult obesity has even more than doubled since 2018.
According to the combined 2019-2021 data, all of the states and territories actually had more than 20% prevalence of adults with obesity. However, in 19 states and two territories, “at least 35% of residents” had adult obesity. This “more than doubles” the number of states with high obesity prevalence since 2018, the CDC said.
These states were Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, the agency noted. Territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were also included.
Based on the data, 17 of the mentioned states alongside Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands had “35% to less than 40%” of adults with obesity. But in Kentucky and West Virginia, the rate was “40% or more.”
The South was found to be the region with the highest obesity prevalence rates at 36.3%. The Midwest followed closely behind with 35.4%, while the Northeast and the West came next, with 29.9% and 28.7%, respectively.
There were also notable disparities in the groups affected by obesity based on race and ethnicity.
“This report illustrates the urgent need for making obesity prevention and treatment accessible to all Americans in every state and every community,” Debra Houry, CDC acting principal deputy director, said in the agency’s news release. “When we provide stigma-free support to adults living with obesity, we can help save lives and reduce severe outcomes of disease.”
Adults with obesity have an increased risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers — conditions that the CDC noted to be the “leading causes of preventable, premature death.” They are also more at risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes, according to the agency.
Many of these adults also experience getting stigmatized because of their weight, when obesity is quite a “complex” condition that has various contributing factors, such as access to healthy, affordable foods, having safe places to engage in physical activity and even neighborhood design.
It is also not a problem that’s limited to the U.S., as overweight and obesity are said to have grown to “epidemic proportions,” the World Health Organization said, noting that millions of people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. And even children are increasingly being affected by it. From 1975 to 2016, the global rate of kids aged 5 to 19 who are affected by being overweight or obese increased “more than four-fold” from 4% to 18%, the organization noted.
“There are key actions and resources that can help slow and ultimately reverse the obesity epidemic,” Karen Hacker, the director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in the news release. “These include supporting healthy individual lifestyle changes and ensuring that all people have access to healthy foods, evidence-based health care services, obesity treatment programs and safe places for physical activity.”