Over next two decades, obesity could cost us $550 billion

September 18, 2012

The Trust for America's Health released its annual look at obesity rates this morning, and its not pretty. The national obesity rate is over 35 percent for adults, with big variation between states. Mississippi comes in with the highest obesity rate at 34.9 percent.

That's the present. But the future looks a whole lot worse: If current trends continue, all states could reach or exceed an obesity rate of 44 percent for adults in 20 years. By 2030, 13 states would be expected to have an obesity rate above 60 percent. Two states, Mississippi and Oklahoma, would have rates above 65 percent.

That's what the future looks like if absolutely nothing changes and it's largely n line with other, recent projections (a separate study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated a 42 percent obesity rate by 2032.) That's expensive: The TFAH researchers estimate that the projected increase in obesity rates will cost the United States $550 billion between now and 2030.

A small change, however, could make a big difference: TFAH models a separate future where the obesity rate rises 5 percent more slowly than it has historically. If that happened, "every state except Florida would save between 6.5 percent and 7.8 percent in obesity-related health costs." Florida would see a lower impact because of its relatively older population.

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Brad Plumer | September 18, 2012