Here's Where People Weigh the Most in the U.S.

February 26th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Despite efforts at both the state and federal level to curb rising rates of obesity in the U.S., most recent data shows that we still have a public health crisis on our hands when it comes to the percentage of overweight people in the country.

Adult obesity rates are climbing across the board, but some states are facing a greater uphill battle than others — the issue is especially hot in the South and Midwest.

Here’s the percent of obese adults in each state.


Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi top the charts in terms of obesity, with more than 35 percent of adults in those states qualifying as obese. Part of the reason why these states consistently rank highest in obesity rates is that they also happen to be some of the poorest states, with a poverty rate of about 16 percent in the South and 13 percent in the Midwest. Twenty-two states have obesity rates over 30 percent, and all but five states have obesity rates over 25 percent according to surveys compiled by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Those in poverty tend to have high-calorie diets because it's cheaper to buy junk food than healthier options such as fruits and vegetables. "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a study that found $1 could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips but just 250 calories of vegetables and 170 calories of fresh fruit," CNN reported.

Here's the obesity rate in America between 1985 and 2010.

The chart above clearly shows an upward trend in obesity in America. While there is not a definitive explanation for the rise, experts caution that measures must be taken to ensure that Americans have information about the risks of obesity and access to inexpensive, healthier food.


"An effort that spans multiple sectors must be made to stop or reverse this trend that is compromising and shortening the lives of many," Lin Yang, a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.

All these numbers are concerning because more than one-third of Americans (about 78.6 million people) are obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Obesity is associated with a number of leading preventable causes of death including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

But the costs of obesity aren't simply health-related. The economic toll of obesity in America was about $147 billion in 2008, and the medical expenses of obese people are more than $1,400 per person annually than people of normal weight, the CDC says.


Millennials should be particularly wary about the obesity trend in the U.S., as increased dependence on technology is considered on one of the main contributing factors to rising rates of obesity. Technology is enabling more Americans to become inactive in their daily life, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows. Recognizing and responding to this development has become a priority of the Obama administration with the Let's Move! campaign, but the onus falls primarily on individuals to maintain a healthy weight.

RELATED: What Do People Google About Your Home State?