Obesity Statistics - Featured

17 Troubling Obesity Statistics You Need to Know

by Mira Rakicevic

Obesity is a growing problem both in the US and worldwide. More and more people are gaining weight due to their sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. The obesity statistics are pretty grim, but before we delve into details, let’s just quickly define the basic terms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define an overweight or obese person as someone whose weight is “higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height.” Typically, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to classify people in four categories according to their weight: underweight, normal, overweight, and obese. You can easily calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms with the square of your height in meters—or just use the CDC’s handy calculator.

In order to better understand the problem of obesity and its related health issues, let’s see the numbers behind it.

The Top 8 Obesity Stats

  • Over 70% of US adults were overweight or obese in the 2013–2014 period.
  • The medical costs of obesity were $147 billion in 2008.
  • About 39.8% of US adults were obese in 2015–2016.
  • About 18.5% of US children and adolescents (aged 2–19) were obese in 2015–2016.
  • Over 1.9 billion adults were overweight in the world in 2016.
  • In 2016, there were about 41 million overweight or obese children under the age of 5 worldwide.
  • There are more deaths associated with being overweight and obese than there are with being underweight.
  • In 2013–2014, 38.7% of men were overweight compared to 26.5% of women.

What Percentage of Americans Are Overweight?

1. Over 70% of US adults were overweight or obese in the 2013–2014 period.

To be more precise, 32.5% of Americans were overweight, 37.7% of them were obese, and 7.7% were extremely obese. According to these figures, people with a healthy weight are definitely a minority.

(The National Center for Health Statistics)

2. About 39.8% of US adults were obese in 2015–2016.

The statistics show a rising trend in the prevalence of obesity in the US. These obesity statistics from 2016 also reveal that the obesity rate was higher among Americans aged 40–59 (42.8%) than among those aged 20–39 (35.7%).

(The National Center for Health Statistics)

3. In 2017, the prevalence of obesity was lowest in Colorado and Hawaii.

In these two states, 20%–25% of adults were obese. It’s really worrying that all states have a rate of at least 20%. The states with the highest prevalence of obesity (more than 35% of adults) include Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Obesity Statistics Worldwide

Obesity Statistics - Worldwide

4. Over 1.9 billion adults were overweight in the world in 2016.

This figure includes the 650 million people who were obese. Based on the WHO’s data, the worldwide prevalence of obesity has almost tripled since 1975. This is a disturbing fact considering how many adverse effects obesity can have.

(World Health Organization)

5. In 2016, the highest prevalence of obesity was in the Americas.

According to WHO’s data, 28.6% of adults were obese in this region. Conversely, the region with the lowest rate of obesity was Southeast Asia, with only 4.7%.

(World Health Organization)

6. Nauru is the country with the highest rate of obesity.

Based on 2016’s data on overweight populations and their obesity statistics, 61% of the population in this small island country in Micronesia is obese. On the other hand, the lowest rate of obesity was observed in Vietnam—only 2.1%.

(World Health Organization)

Obesity Across Different Demographics

Obesity Statistics - Demographics

7. About 18.5% of US children and adolescents (aged 2–19) were obese in 2015–2016.

The rate of obesity was higher among children aged 6–11 (18.4%) and teenagers aged 12–19 (20.6%) than among children aged 2–5 (13.9%).

(The National Center for Health Statistics)

8. In 2016, there were about 41 million overweight or obese children under the age of 5 worldwide.

In addition, the childhood obesity facts show that more than 340 million children and teenagers aged 5–19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

(World Health Organization)

9. Obesity was least prevalent among Asian adults.

Only 12.7% of Asian adults were obese compared to 37.9% of white adults, 46.8% of black adults, and 47% of Hispanic adults.

(The National Center for Health Statistics)

10. In 2013–2014, 38.7% of men were overweight compared to 26.5% of women.

While there were more overweight men than women, obesity was more prevalent among women. Namely, the US obesity statistics indicate that 40.4% of women were obese compared to 35% of men. In line with this, the rate of extreme obesity was also higher among women: 9.9% versus 5.5% of men.

(The National Center for Health Statistics)

11. The prevalence of obesity was higher among Americans with a lower level of education.

According to data from 2017, the highest prevalence of obesity was among Americans without a high school degree (35.6%). On the other hand, the findings pertaining to obesity in America and the statistics from 2017 show that college graduates reported the lowest level of obesity, at 22.7%.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Adverse Effects of Excess Pounds

Obesity Statistics - Negative Effects

12. Losing 5%–10% of your body weight may lower your risk of heart disease.

An increased risk of developing heart disease is associated with being overweight or obese. This is because overweight people usually have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar, which can all lead to heart disease.

(National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

13. Over 87% of people with diabetes are overweight or obese.

Many obesity facts prove that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing this disease. However, it’s yet to be fully explained why. Nevertheless, losing weight may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. People who already have this disease may control their blood sugar levels more easily if they lose weight and increase their physical activity.

(National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

14. Being overweight or obese is associated with more deaths than being underweight.

First, global obesity statistics reveal that there are more obese people in the world than those who are underweight. Additionally, being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing a range of diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and even certain cancers.

(World Health Organization)

15. Obesity may increase the risk of developing anxiety and depression.

A Swedish researcher found out that there’s an increased rate of anxiety and depression among obese children. 8% of boys with childhood obesity developed anxiety or depression, while only 4.1% of boys who weren’t obese received such a diagnosis. Similarly, 11.6% of girls with obesity compared to 6% of girls without obesity developed anxiety or depression. Still, more research is needed to examine this correlation.

(Medical News Today)

16. Up to 45% of obese people have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

On the other hand, the prevalence of this sleep disorder in the general adult population is around 25%. Since excess weight is one of the common causes of sleep apnea—which is supported by practically all obesity statistics in America—losing weight can help reduce the risk of developing this sleep-related issue or alleviate the symptoms in people who already suffer from OSA.

(National Center for Biotechnology Information)

17. The medical costs of obesity were $147 billion in 2008.

According to these estimates, the medical costs related to obesity almost doubled from 1998, when they were about $78.5 billion. According to the facts on obesity in America and the statistics supporting them, these annual medical costs rose to $325 billion in 2014.

(National Center for Biotechnical Information)

FAQs

What percentage of US adults are obese?

In the 2015–2016 period, 39.8% of US adults were obese. In other words, this serious health problem affected about 93.3 million adults in the US.

What country was the most obese in 2018?

According to the latest report compiled by the World Health Organization, Nauru had the highest obesity prevalence among the adult population—61%. This Micronesian country is followed by the Cook Islands and Palau, where the obesity prevalence was 55.9% and 55.3%, respectively.

What percentage of the world was obese in 2018?

Based on the latest WHO’s estimates, there were 13% of obese people in the world in 2016. Additionally, there were 39% of overweight adults in the world in the same year. However, they didn’t provide data for the year of 2018.

What state has the most obesity?

According to the Gallup’s poll from 2015, West Virginia was the state with the highest obesity rate with 37% of its population being obese. On the other hand, Hawaii had the lowest rate of obesity—18.5%.

Which country has the healthiest population?

Based on the 2019’s edition of Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country, while the US ranked 35. The index rates 169 countries taking into account a number of health-related factors, such as life expectancy and obesity, as well as environmental factors, such as access to clean water. 

How many people die from obesity?

The World Health Organization reports that about 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. 

To Sum Up

While it’s true that we can’t all look like supermodels—in fact, we should appreciate our bodies and be happy with our looks—we also need to think of our health. A high BMI is closely related to negative health effects. Additionally, it’s a well-known fact that obese people tend to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar levels, which can all lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease. Obesity is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, arthritis, and even some types of cancer.

Unfortunately, these obesity statistics show that the prevalence of being overweight or obese is on the rise. It’s devastating that excess pounds are one of the major causes of death in the world—even though obesity can be successfully treated or, even better, prevented. For a start, we should all start exercising more and eating more healthily. These simple changes in our habits can have a range of health benefits in the long run.

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