About half of the U.S. adult population will have obesity and about a quarter will have severe obesity by 2030, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, the researchers used self-reported body mass index (BMI) data from more than 6.2 million adults who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS) between 1993 and 2016. Self-reported BMIs are frequently biased, so the researchers used novel statistical methods to correct for this bias.

Using the data, the researchers projected that by 2030 nearly half of U.S. adults (48.9%) will have obesity, and the prevalence will be higher than 50% in 29 states and not below 35% in any state. Nearly one in four adults is projected to have severe obesity by 2030 (24.2%), and the prevalence will be higher than 25% in 25 states. In addition, they predicted that nationally, severe obesity will likely be the most common BMI category for women, non-Hispanic black adults, and those with annual incomes below $50,000 per year.

“The high projected prevalence of severe obesity among low-income adults has substantial implications for future Medicaid costs,” said lead author Zachary Ward, programmer/analyst at Harvard Chan School’s Center for Health Decision Science, in a university press release. “In addition, the effect of weight stigma could have far-reaching implications for socioeconomic disparities as severe obesity becomes the most common BMI category among low-income adults in nearly every state.”

Abstract

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