Skip to Content

The Numbers Are In



Obesity rates rose in 16 states in the past year, 38 states have obesity rates above 25 percent, and 12 states have rates above 30 percent, according to a just-released, highly detailed report analyzing obesity in the United States. 

Looks like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.

The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011 Thursday morning, revealing the much-anticipated study of obesity trends over the past year. There are signs of improvement—this is the first year since the report started tracking statistically significant year-to-year increases in 2006 that fewer than 20 states had increases in their adult obesity rates. However, the overall findings show that, despite recent efforts to combat obesity, much more needs to be done to prevent obesity and reverse the epidemic.

Case in point: No state experienced a decrease in its adult obesity rate in the past year.

The results are even more troubling when broken down by factors such as ethnicity, region and income, which show striking divides in obesity rates among different segments of the population. For example, obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are highest in the South; aside from Michigan, the 10 most obese states are all below the Mason-Dixon line. 

Obesity and education level appear to be linked, as people who didn’t graduate high school have the highest obesity rate, nearly 33 percent, while those who graduated from college had the lowest, at 21.5 percent. Household income also is a factor, the study shows. Households that make less than $15,000 a year have an obesity rate over 33 percent, while households that have a yearly income above $50,000 have a rate just under 25 percent.

The numbers are especially jarring if you look at the statistics from just 20 years ago, when no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, and the state with the lowest rate today would have had the highest rate in 1995.

The news isn’t all dire, however. “F as in Fat” also highlights communities that are making significant policy changes to target obesity, with experts urging that such work be replicated across the country.

Want to know how your state measures up? Click here to read the full report

Full disclosure: is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.