According to Gallup, the U.S. adult obesity rate is 27.7% thus far in 2014. This compares with the 27.1% average in 2013—the highest annual rate Gallup and Healthways have measured since beginning to track obesity in 2008. The obesity rate was 25.5% in 2008 when Gallup and Healthways first began tracking it.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses respondents’ self-reports of their height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores, differs slightly from government reports of obesity, which are based on actual heights and weights found in clinical measurements. Individual BMI values of 30 or above are classified as “obese,” 25–29.9 are “overweight,” 18.5–24.9 are “normal weight,” and 18.4 or less are “underweight.” For the past six years, nearly two-thirds of Americans have had BMIs higher than are recommended, while roughly 35% of Americans have been in the “normal weight” category.
Thirty-five percent of Americans are classified having a normal weight so far in 2014, while 35.3% of adults are considered “overweight.” Meanwhile, underweight Americans make up a very small 2.1% of the adult population.
Across major demographic categories, obesity rates are higher or stable thus far in 2014 compared with 2013. As has previously been the case, African Americans (35.5%) are the most likely to be obese among all demographic groups. Meanwhile, young adults ages 18–29 years (17.0%) and high-income Americans (23.1%), those who earn $90,000 or more annually, remain the groups least likely to be obese. The obesity rate among older Americans ages 65+ ticked up 1.6 points so far in 2014 to 27.9%, the largest increase among subgroups.
“While it is difficult to identify long-term trends from short-term data, these data suggest, at best, no retreat in the obesity epidemic and, at worst, a deterioration,” said Janna Lacatell, Healthways Lifestyle Solutions Director. “Given that obesity leads to higher rates of serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and has been shown to cause disease onset at younger ages, this is a significant public health concern. Further, populations that have a disproportionately high obesity rate, such as African Americans and southerners, also have disproportionately higher diabetes rates.”