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18 Troubling Obesity Statistics That You Shouldn’t Overlook

written by / January 5, 2021

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 by 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 10 Obesity Stats and Facts

  • Obesity can put people at a higher risk of COVID-19.
  • Around 40% of US adults between the ages of 20 and 39 were obese in 2017–2018.
  • In 2019, the prevalence of obesity was lowest in Colorado and the District of Columbia.
  • Nauru is the country with the highest rate of obesity.
  • In 2016, there were about 41 million overweight or obese children under the age of 5 worldwide.
  • In 2013–2014, 38.7% of men were overweight compared to 26.5% of women.
  • The prevalence of obesity was higher among Americans with a lower level of education.
  • Losing 5%–10% of your body weight may lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Up to 45% of obese people have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
  • The medical costs of obesity were $147 billion in 2008.

COVID-19 and Obesity Statistics for 2021

Obesity Statistics - Featured

How does COVID-19 affect people with obesity? In this section, we look at what this global pandemic means for obese people. 

1. Obesity can put people at a higher risk of COVID-19.

(CDC)

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is dangerous for many groups of people. However, people with pre-existing conditions like obesity are more likely to suffer greatly if they catch COVID-19. Other factors which put people at a higher risk are asthma and diabetes. 

2. People with obesity are more likely to suffer from respiratory disease, cardiac disease, and compromised immune systems. 

(The Obesity Society)

These pre-existing conditions put people at a higher risk of COVID-19. People who suffer from a poor immune system, cardiac issues, and respiratory problems are likely to suffer more if they contract COVID-19. 

What Percentage of Americans Are Overweight?

Here, we’ll be looking at the prevalence of obesity in the United States. 

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

(NCHS)

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 statistics on obesity, people with a healthy weight are definitely a minority.

4. Around 40% of US adults between the ages of 20 and 39 were obese in 2017–2018.

(CDC)

For middle-aged adults, this percentage was 44.8% and for older adults, the percentage was 42.8%.

5. In 2019, the prevalence of obesity was lowest in Colorado and the District of Columbia.

(CDC

While obesity was the least prevalent in these two places, the percentage of the population suffering from obesity was still pretty high—20% to less than 25%.

Obesity Statistics Worldwide

What is the prevalence of obesity throughout the world? Let’s take a look at obesity rates by country.

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

(World Health Organization)

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.

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

(World Health Organization)

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%.

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

(World Health Organization)

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%.

Obesity Across Different Demographics

Obesity Statistics - Demographics

What groups of people are more likely to experience obesity?

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

(World Health Organization)

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

10. Obesity was least prevalent among Asian adults in 2017–2018.

(CDC)

Only 17.4% of Asian adults were obese compared to 42.2% of white adults, 49.6% of black adults, and 44.8% of Hispanic adults.

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

(NCHS)

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.

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

(CDC)

According to data from 2019, the highest prevalence of obesity was among Americans without a high school degree (36.2%). On the other hand, the obesity statistics in America from 2019 show that college graduates reported the lowest level of obesity, at 25.0%.

The Adverse Effects of Excess Pounds

Obesity Statistics - Negative Effects

What negative effects can obesity have on people? In this section, we’ll look at the health risks associated with obesity. 

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

(NIDDK)

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.

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

(NIDDK)

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.

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

(World Health Organization)

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.

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

(Medical News Today)

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.

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

(NCBI)

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.

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

(NCBI)

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.

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.

FAQs

What percentage of US adults are obese?

In the 2017–2018 period, 42.4% of US adults were obese. In other words, this serious health problem concerned millions upon millions of US adults.

(CDC)

Which country was the most obese in 2020?

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.

(World Health Organization)

What percentage of the world was obese in 2020?

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 2020.

(World Health Organization)

What state has the most obesity?

Mississippi is the state with the highest rate of obesity in the United States. West Virginia comes in second, Arkansas comes in third, and Tennessee comes in fourth. 

(US News)

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.

(Bloomberg)

How many people die from obesity?

The latest obesity statistics show that about 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

(World Health Organization)

Sources