Twenty-two states now have an obesity prevalence of 35% or more, according to surveillance data from the CDC.
New 2022 CDC data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that obesity is on the rise, with more than one in five adults living with obesity nationwide. The data also showed that in 22 states, 35% or more of adults have obesity compared to 19 states in 2021.
The CDC says obesity becoming more common is a serious concern, as having a higher BMI is associated with health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and poor mental health. Moreover, people with obesity often report being stigmatized because of their weight.
According to the surveillance data, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have an obesity prevalence of 35% or more.
The CDC also identified the number of states, territories, or D.C. with an adult obesity prevalence of 35% or higher by race/ethnicity.
The data showed:
- Hispanic adults: 32 states among 49 states, two territories, and D.C.
- Non-Hispanic Black adults: 38 states among 48 states and D.C.
- Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults: 33 states among 47 states.
- Non-Hispanic Asian adults: 0 states among 37 states, one territory, and D.C.
- Non-Hispanic White adults: 14 states among 49 states, one territory, and D.C.
Surveillance data also found that the prevalence of obesity decreased as education level increased. For example, 37.6% of adults without a high school diploma experience obesity versus 27.2% of college-educated adults.
In addition, middle-aged adults aged 45 to 54 had the highest prevalence of obesity, while 18 to 24-year-old individuals had the lowest prevalence.
Moreover, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and West Virginia had an obesity prevalence of 40% or more, while California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont had an obesity prevalence of 29.1% or less.
The CDC's 2022 surveillance data also aligns with a recent global study, which predicts that more than half of the world’s population will be living with obesity by 2035.
Why is obesity becoming more common?
The WHO suggests obesity is increasing worldwide because people are consuming more energy-dense foods that contain high amounts of fat and sugar. In addition, physical activity is less among the population due to the rising number of sedentary jobs and changing modes of transportation.
In the United States, meal portions tend to be larger than in other countries, and the consumption of processed packaged foods and fast food may also play a role.
According to the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO), combating the rise in obesity includes community-based strategies such as making exercise safe and accessible to everyone, ensuring easier access to healthier food choices, promoting breastfeeding, improving obesity prevention standards, and increasing the number of family healthy weight programs.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended early identification and aggressive treatment of obesity to address the growing number of children with the condition.