There isn’t a single state in the United States with an adult obesity rate under 20 percent.

Four states — Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia — have obesity rates that top 35 percent, according to new data published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But promisingly, for the most part, the rates stayed stable between 2014 and 2015.

Prevalence of self-reported obesity of US adults. CDC

Here’s how the numbers break down:


  • Only six states had obesity rates between 20 and 25 percent: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, and Utah.
  • Obesity prevalence varies widely based on race and ethnicity. Take, for example, Puerto Rico. The overall prevalence of obesity there is 29 percent. But among white adults, the prevalence jumps to over 45 percent.
  • Nationwide, black individuals had the highest rate of obesity of all racial and ethnic groups. More than 38 percent of black individuals reported being obese.
  • The South had the highest prevalence of obesity by region, ringing in at 31 percent. Obesity was least common in the West; there, just 25 percent of adults reported being obese.

One thing to keep in mind: The numbers are self-reported, so it’s possible obesity rates are actually higher.

“The stakes could not be higher,” Dr. Donald Schwartz of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which helped prepare the report, told journalists on Thursday. “The obesity epidemic is taking a toll on the country’s health.”


Schwartz said there’s work to be done in making sure everyone in the US has access to healthy, affordable food, and safe places to exercise.

  • This article is four years old. I wonder if you can update it with current data and sources.

  • We’re fat because our food is the BEST, and no one can resist it! You move down here and see! You’ll get fat too! Especially if you are one of those fruit and nut-eating people from California! Woody Jenkins, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Historically poor people were thin, and only the rich could afford to be fat. We’ve reversed that.

    As a thin, poor person, I have a suggestion: instead of taxing people based on their income, let’s tax them per pound. Makes no sense, but the process would be hilarious.

    • Never, never, never bring up the idea of reworking the tax system. Once put into motion such a process invariably leads to a poorer, more highly taxed constituency.

      And trust me, first they’ll tax the fat people, and then they’ll tax the thin ones even harder.

      Taxation as a solution for fat people would be more cruel than sewing their mouths shut, or giving them tape worms.

      We should instead adjust our preferences and simply resign ourselves to repeating endlessly in our impressionable heads, “Fat is beautiful, fat is beautiful, fat is beautiful,” until not even the hippos and elephants are safe.

Comments are closed.

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy