Adult obesity rates rise in 28 states, report finds

WASHINGTON Adult obesity rates increased in 28 states in the past year, and declined only in the District of Columbia, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010," a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released Tuesday.

More than two-thirds of states (38) have adult obesity rates above 25%. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20%.

Adult obesity rates for African-Americans and Hispanics were higher than for whites in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia; 10-out-of-the-11 states with the highest rates of obesity were in the South, with Mississippi weighing in with the highest rates for all adults (33.8%) for the sixth year in a row; 35.3% of adults earning less than $15,000 per year were obese, compared with 24.5% of adults earning $50,000 or more per year.

"Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges the country has ever faced, and troubling disparities exist based on race, ethnicity, region and income," stated Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH. "This report shows that the country has taken bold steps to address the obesity crisis in recent years, but the nation's response has yet to fully match the magnitude of the problem. Millions of Americans still face barriers — like the high cost of healthy foods and lack of access to safe places to be physically active — that make healthy choices challenging."

The report also included obesity rates among youths between the ages of 10 and 17 years and the results of a new poll on childhood obesity conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint. The poll showed that 80% of Americans recognize that childhood obesity is a significant and growing challenge for the country, and 50% of Americans believe childhood obesity is such an important issue that we need to immediately invest more to prevent it. The survey also found that 84% of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, but research showed nearly one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight.


Additional key findings included:

  • Adult obesity rates for African-Americans topped 40% in nine states, 35% in 34 states, and 30% in 43 states and D.C.;
  • Rates of adult obesity for Latinos were above 35% in two states (North Dakota and Tennessee), and at 30% and above in 19 states;
  • Ten-of-the-11 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South, as are the 10 states with the highest rates of hypertension;
  • The number of states where adult obesity rates exceeded 30% doubled in the past year, from four to eight — Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia; and
  • Northeastern and western states had the lowest adult obesity rates — Colorado remained the lowest at 19.1%.



The full report with state rankings in all categories is available on TFAH's website at and RWJF's website at The report was supported by a grant from RWJF.


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