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The Obesity Epidemic

The rapidly growing prevalence of obesity is a public health crisis claiming hundreds of thousands of lifes every year in the United States.

Obesity in the United States

Obesity is a complex, multi-factorial chronic disease involving environmental (social and cultural), genetic, physiologic, metabolic, behavioral and psychological components. It is the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Overweight and obesity are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' health agenda that have steadily moved away from their established targets for improvement. Today, public health leaders recognize obesity as a "neglected public health problem."


Overall prevalence

Approximately one third of the current U.S. Population meets criteria for obesity
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement tool used to determine excess body weight. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 or more, obesity is 30 or more, and severe obesity is 40 or more. Click here for a BMI calculator to find out where you fit in.

In 1990, among states participating in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 10 states had a prevalence of obesity less than 10% and no state had prevalence equal to or greater than 15%.

By 2000, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 10%, 23 states had a prevalence between 20–24%, and no state had prevalence equal to or greater than 25%.

In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence equal to or greater than 30%.

Obesity Trends 2010


Overweight and obesity increases steadily with age for both men and women. In the last decade, all adult age groups in both genders have experienced an increase in overweight and obesity.
At a minimum, half of all age groups are overweight and at least 20 percent obese.
The age group with the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity among men is 65 to 74 years, and among women, 55 to 64 years.


The prevalence of overweight is higher for men (67 percent) than women (62 percent).
The prevalence of obesity is higher for women (34 percent) than men (27.7 percent) as is severe obesity; women (6.3 percent) and men (3.1 percent).
The increase in overweight, obesity and severe obesity prevalence is evident in adults (aged 20 to 74) of both genders over the last decade, as shown below.