Americans have never been fatter, but beneath the surface of the 'union', some states and ethnicities are more obese than others...
At 18.5%, Hawaii has the lowest adult obesity rate in the U.S., closely followed by Colorado at 19.8%. As Gallup reports, they are the only two states in which the obesity rate is below 20%. West Virginia has the highest adult obesity rate, at 37.0%. In addition to West Virginia, at least one in three adults are obese in Mississippi, Delaware, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Of the 18 states with obesity rates of at least 30.0%, all but one are located in the South or Midwest. Meanwhile, all 11 states with obesity rates below 25.0% are located in the Northeast or West.
The national obesity rate reached a new high of 28.0% in 2015, up significantly from 25.5% in 2008, when Gallup and Healthways began tracking obesity. Fourteen states had statistically significant increases in their obesity rates from 2008 to 2015, while no state registered a statistically significant decline. Maine, West Virginia, Idaho and Oklahoma experienced the sharpest upticks in obesity.
Since 2008, the obesity rate for the Midwest has increased by 3.2 percentage points, more than any other region. The South followed closely behind, with a 2.9-point increase. The Northeast and West have seen smaller, but still statistically significant, increases of 2.0 and 1.8 points, respectively.
As the adult obesity rate continues to rise both nationally and within many states, preventable healthcare costs will also rise. If states can lower their obesity rates, even modestly, they can achieve significant cost savings and improve their residents' well-being.
Given that obesity is associated with illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and some forms of cancer, the medical costs for an obese person amounted to $1,429 more per year than for a person of a normal weight, according to research conducted in 2008 by RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After adjusting for inflation, the annual medical costs for 2015 are $1,573 more for a person who is obese than for a person of a normal weight.
Gallup calculated the incremental cost of healthcare per year for each state by multiplying the estimated number of obese people in the state's population by the annual incremental $1,573 cost of obesity per person.
In the five most obese states, the annual incremental cost of obesity per 100,000 residents averages $54 million. By contrast, the average cost is $34 million in the five least obese states. In other words, per capita medical costs attributable to obesity are about 1.6 times higher in the five states with the highest obesity rates than in the states with the five lowest rates.