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Gallup Report: U.S. Obesity Rate Inches Up to 28% in 2014

Highest obesity rate in 7 years

The percentage of U.S. adults who are obese continued to trend upward in 2014, reaching 27.7%, according to a new Gallup survey. This is up more than two percentage points since 2008 and is the highest obesity rate Gallup has measured in 7 years of tracking it.

More Americans who were previously overweight have now moved into the obese category, while the percentage of American who are at normal weight has remained stable since 2013. The percentage of Americans who are underweight has remained steady at 2.0%.

These results were based on more than 167,000 interviews conducted in 2014. Unlike government estimates of obesity, Gallup uses respondents’ self-reported height and weight to calculate their body mass index (BMI). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government estimates of obesity are slightly different, as they are calculated using clinical measurements of height and weight as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The latest NHANES results from 2011–2012 reported a 34.9% obesity rate for adults aged 20 years or older –– not significantly different from data collected since 2003. Another self-reported government survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, said that the obesity rate for U.S. adults aged 18 years and older was 29.4% in 2013.

Obesity rates have increased at least marginally in 2014 compared with 2008 across nearly all major U.S. demographic groups, Gallup says. Since 2008, Americans aged 65 years and older have seen the sharpest uptick in obesity, a four-percentage-point increase to 27.4%. This is followed by increases among 45- to 64-year-olds (3.5 points); Americans living in the Midwest (2.9 points); and women (2.8 points). Obesity rates among Hispanics, blacks, and young adults aged 18 to 29 years are similar to those found in 2008.

Although the obesity rate among blacks has not changed much since 2008, this group has the highest obesity rate of any major demographic group at 35.5%. Obesity rates also exceed 30% among Americans aged 45 to 64 years and among those earning less than $36,000 per year. Young adults aged 18 to 29 years are the least likely to be obese (17.7%), followed by those earning at least $90,000 per year (23.1%).

Americans of a normal weight have the highest average well-being (64.5%), followed by those who are overweight but not obese (63.0%). Underweight Americans (62.2%) have lower well-being than those who are overweight. Americans who are obese have the lowest well-being across weight groups.

With the obesity rate increasing across nearly all demographic groups since 2008, it is imperative for public health officials, employers, and individuals to act to reverse the trend, Gallup says. However, given the link between lower well-being and obesity, these actions should focus on more than just diet and exercise.

Source: Gallup; January 26, 2015.

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