Obesity on the Rise in US

Brande Nicole Martin

July 09, 2009

July 9, 2009 — Adult obesity in the United States has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, with more than 32 states having an obesity prevalence of more than 25% in 2008, according to a new report released yesterday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of these 32 states, 6 states — Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia — had a prevalence of obesity that was 30% or higher.

These data were collected from the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, which is the largest state-based telephone health information survey of adults aged 18 years and older.

The CDC surveyed more than 400,000 US adults and asked respondents to provide their height and weight. The measurements were used to calculate body mass index (BMI). For an adult, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2 indicates a healthy weight, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher is considered obese.

According to the survey, in 1990, less than 15% of adults were obese in all states. However, in 9 years, the prevalence of obesity sharply increased; no state had a prevalence of obesity that was less than 10%, and in 18 states, between 20% and 24% of adults were obese. By 2008, only 1 state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity that was less than 20%.

"[T]he 2008 [Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System] obesity data indicate that none of the 50 states or the District of Columbia has achieved the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing obesity prevalence to 15% or less," according to a CDC news release.

"The latest survey data show that the obesity problem in this country is getting worse," Liping Pan, MD, MPH, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System obesity map analysis, said in a CDC news release. "If this trend continues we will likely see increases in healthcare costs for obesity-related diseases."

Healthcare Expenditures for Obesity Also Increasing

In a separate statistical report conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, healthcare spending for obese US adults increased more than 80% from 2001 to 2006.

Healthcare spending included physician visits, hospital outpatient visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, home healthcare services, dental visits, other medical expenses, and prescription drugs in 2001 and 2006.

The trends for healthcare expenditures were based on the BMI of noninstitutionalized US adults aged 18 years or older. The data were derived from the Household Component of the 2001 and 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

In the US adult population, the proportion of those who were obese increased from 23.6% to 27.2% between 2001 and 2006. The proportion of total healthcare expenditures for obese adults increased by 7.2% (from 28.1% – 35.3% in 2001 vs 2006).

The average annual healthcare expenditure for the obese population was $3458 in 2001, increasing to $5148 in 2006. For the overweight population, the average annual healthcare expenditure was $2792 in 2001 and $3315 in 2006.

The obese population had the highest proportion of at least 1 or more chronic conditions by BMI category for 2001 and 2006 (57.1% vs 59.7%, respectively).

More information is available on the CDC Web site and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Web site.

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