WASHINGTON — According to a Gallup poll released last week, the 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.
"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," stated 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."
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses respondents' self-reports of their height and weight to calculate body mass index scores, differs slightly from government reports of obesity, which are based on actual heights and weights found in clinical measurements. 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.
A little more than one-in-three Americans (35%) 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.
The obesity rate was 25.5% in 2008 when Gallup and Healthways first began tracking it. The percentage of obese adults has fluctuated since then, but is now 2.2 percentage points higher than it was in 2008.
Across major demographic categories, obesity rates are higher or stable thus far in 2014 compared with 2013. As has previously been the case, blacks (35.5%) are the most likely to be obese among all demographic groups. Meanwhile, young adults aged 18 to 29 years (17%) 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 aged 65 and older ticked up 1.6 points so far in 2014 to 27.9%, the largest increase among subgroups.