American Health Facts & Figures

American Health Facts & Figures


The prevalence of obesity in the United States continues to be an important health issue. The primary data source for monitoring national prevalence and population trends in obesity is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).  This survey obtains measured (rather than self-reported) data on height and weight. Obesity is defined using body mass index (BMI) or weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, although definitions are different for adults and adolescents.

Adult Obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of health conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, gallstones, gout, fatty liver disease, skin conditions, reproductive problems, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, sleep apnea, asthma and certain cancers.

Obesity Among Adults

More than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9 percent) were obese in 2011-2012.  This includes 33.5 percent of men and 36.1 percent of women.  There was no significant change in the prevalence of obesity among all men or all women between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.

  • The prevalence of obesity among middle aged adults aged 40-59 (39.5 percent) was higher than among younger adults aged 20-39 (30.3 percent) or older adults aged 60 and over (35.4 percent) in 2011-2012.
  • The prevalence of obesity in women aged 60 years and older increased between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.
  • If obesity rates stay consistent, by 2030, 51 percent of the population will be obese by 2030.

American obesity statistics

NOTE: Obesity defined as BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2.
Source:  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Obesity and Race/Hispanic Origin

The prevalence of obesity among adults by race and Hispanic origin in 2011-2012 show:

  • The prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic Asian adults (10.8 percent) was lower than among non-Hispanic white (32.6 percent), Hispanic (42.5 percent) and non-Hispanic black (47.8 percent) adults.
  • The only difference in the prevalence of obesity by sex was found among non-Hispanic black adults: 56.6 percent of non-Hispanic black women were obese compared with 37.1 percent of non-Hispanic black men.


Obesity and Race/Hispanic Origin

NOTE: Obesity defined as BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2.
Source:  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012

Obesity prevalence in 2012 varies across states and regions

  • By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.5% in Colorado to 34.7% in Louisiana in 2012. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Nine states and the District of Columbia had prevalence between 20-25%. Thirteen states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had a prevalence equal to or greater than 30%.
  • Higher prevalence of adult obesity was found in the Midwest (29.5%) and the South (29.4%). Lower prevalence was observed in the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (25.1%).


The History of State Obesity Prevalence

  • There was a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States from 1990 through 2010.
  • State prevalences prior to 2011 is provided for historical information only.  Historical rates should not be compared to rates from 2011 and forward due to changes in survey methods.
  • Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent. Today there are 41 states with obesity rates over 25 percent.
  • No state met the nation’s Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15%. Rather, in 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%.

US Adults Percent Obese 2000

US Adults Percent Obese 2005

US Adults Percent Obese 2010


Overweight and Obesity among Adults Age 20 and Older, United States, 2009–2010

Adults Age 20 and Older

  • More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
  • More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese.
  • More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity.
  • Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity is similar for both men and women (about 36 percent).
  • About 8 percent of women are considered to have extreme obesity


Estimated Percentage by BMI


■ Normal weight or underweight (BMI under 24.9)
■ Overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9)
■ Obesity (BMI of 30+)
■ Extreme obesity (BMI of 40+)

Source: NHANES, 2009–2010


Estimated Percentage by Sex

■ Men    ■ Women

Source: NHANES, 2009–2010

Trends in Overweight and Obesity among Adults, United States, 1962–2010

Changes over Time

  • Since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adults age 20 and older.
  • Obesity prevalence remained mostly stable from 1999 to 2010, but has increased slightly, yet in a statistically significant way, among men overall, as well as among black women and Mexican American women.
  • Among children and adolescents, the prevalence of obesity also increased in the 1980s and 1990s but is now mostly stable at about 17 percent.


■ Overweight     ■ Obesity     ■ Extreme obesity

Source: Ogden & Carroll, 2010; Flegal et al., 2012

Data for 1960–1980 are for adults ages 20 to 74; data for 1988–2010 are for adults age 20 and older.


Obesity Among Children and Adolescents

Childhood obesity rates remain high. Overall, obesity among our nation’s young people, aged 2 to 19 years, has not changed significantly since 2003-2004 and remains at about 17 percent. However among 2-5 years old, obesity has declined based on CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

  • Since 1980, the rate of obesity in children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • In 2011-2012, approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. This includes 16.7 percent of boys and 17.2 percent of girls.
  • There are significant racial and age disparities in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents. In 2011-2012, obesity prevalence was higher among Hispanics (22.4%) and non-Hispanic black youth (20.2%) than non-Hispanic white youth (14.1%). The prevalence of obesity was lower in non-Hispanic Asian youth (8.6%) than in youth who were non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic.
  • In 2011-2012, the prevalence of obesity among 2-5 year olds was lower (8.4 percent) than among children 6-11 (17.7 percent) or adolescents 12-19 years (20.5 percent).


NOTE: Obesity defined as BMI ≥ 95th percentile of the CDC Growth Charts.
Source:  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012

Obesity and Physical Activity

  • Less than 15 percent of school-aged children walk or bike to school today, compared to 48 percent that did in 1969, according to the Safe Routes to School Partnership.
  • Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education for all students.
  • Approximately 50 percent of U.S. adults and 65 percent of adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

Obesity and Nutrition

  • In total, Americans now consume 31 percent more calories today than they did 40 years ago.
  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, healthier diets could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity and lost lives.

Fast Facts: Economic Costs of Obesity

Healthcare Costs

  • In addition to its serious health consequences, obesity has real economic costs that affect all of us. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are a staggering $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States. The majority of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. Obese people spend 42 percent more on healthcare costs than healthyweight people.
  • Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct costs.
  • Annually, the average total health expenses for a child treated for obesity under Medicaid is $6,730, while the average health cost for all children covered by Medicaid is $2,446. The average total health expenses for a child treated for obesity under private insurance is $3,743, while the average health cost for all children covered by private insurance is $1,108.
  • Hospitalizations of children and youths with a diagnosis of obesity nearly doubled between 1999 and 2005, while total costs for children and youths with obesity-related hospitalizations increased from $125.9 million in 2001 to $237.6 million in 2005, measured in 2005 dollars.
  • In California alone, the economic costs of overweight, obesity and physical inactivity are estimated to cost $41 billion a year.


Decreased Worker Productivity and Increased Absenteeism

  • Obesity-related job absenteeism costs $4.3 billion annually.
  • Obese employees had $51,091 in medical claims costs per 100 full-time employees, costs for medical claims for obese worker per year.
  • As a person’s BMI increases, so do the number of sick days, medical claims and healthcare costs associated with that person.


Higher Workers’ Compensation Claims

  • Emergency responders and healthcare providers face unique challenges in transporting and treating the heaviest patients. According to one study, the number of severely obese (BMI ≥ 40) patients quadrupled between 1986 and 2000 from one in 200 to one in 50. The number of super-obese (BMI ≥ 50) patients grew by a factor of five, from one in 2,000 to one in 400.
  • A typical ambulance outfitted with equipment and two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) that can transport a 400-pound patient costs $70,000. A specially outfitted bariatric ambulance that can transport patients weighing up to 1,000 pounds costs $110,000.
  • A standard hospital bed can hold 500 pounds and costs $1,000. A bariatric hospital bed that can hold up to 1,000 pounds costs $4,000.



References: National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Center for Disease Control, F as in Fat, The Campaign to End Obesity.

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