The states where Americans are the most and least obese

Adult Obesity Rates by State, 2013

Scroll over for obesity rates by state

The South is weighing this country down.

Nowhere in the United States are Americans more overweight than in Mississippi and West Virginia, where more than 35 percent of the adult population is now obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The two Southern states, however, are hardly alone in their alarmingly high obesity rates — another 18 U.S. states, including just about all of the U.S. South, have obesity rates at or above 30 percent.

The exceptions are few and far in between. Only seven U.S. states and one district — Vermont, Montana, Utah, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Colorado and the District of Columbia — registered obesity rates below 25 percent. And only Colorado, the least obese state in the country, and Hawaii, the second least, registered obesity rates below 22 percent.

It isn't just the South that is having pronounced weight problems — certain demographics are especially prone to larger waistlines, too.

There is, for instance, a stark racial divide: Obesity rates rates for blacks exceed 40 percent in 11 states and 30 percent in 41 states; for Latinos, they are greater than 30 percent in 23 states; but for whites, they are higher than 30 percent in only 10 states.

There is also a wealth divide: More than a third of U.S. adults earning less than $15,000 a year are obese, while only a quarter of those earning more than $50,000 annually carry that distinction.

And there's even a generational divide: Baby boomers (adults aged 45 to 64 years old) are more likely to be obese than any other age group.

What might be most disconcerting, however, is how quickly and completely the obesity epidemic has overtaken the country. In 1990, not a single U.S. state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, but by 2000, only two, Arizona and Colorado, had obesity rates below 15 percent, and by 2010, not a single state had an obesity rate below 20 percent. Even last year, adult obesity increased significantly in six states — Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The problem is such that nationally, obesity has leveled off at just over 35 percent, which has earned the United States the unenviable distinction as the world's most obese major country.

Roberto A. Ferdman is a reporter for Wonkblog covering food, economics, immigration and other things. He was previously a staff writer at Quartz.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business
Next Story
Jason Millman · September 4