To say that obesity is an epidemic in the United States is an understatement. It is a health issue that affects over 75 million people and costs billions of dollars to treat annually. Obesity-related disease issues in America are also some of its leading causes of death.
34.9% of US adults are officially classified as being obese according to statistics provided by the CDC.
What makes obesity difficult to treat is that there are emotional issues often co-existing with the physical health issues. People eat because they are sad, depressed, angry, or even bored. When they eat, they have more negative feelings, which then causes them to eat more. It’s a vicious cycle that is only made worse by the love of processed and fast foods that Americans love so much.
Who Obesity Affects in America
- Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (32.6%), and non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%).
- Obesity is higher among middle age adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults over 60 or above (35.4%) adults.
- Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to have obesity than those with a lower income.
- Higher income women are less likely to have obesity than low-income women.
- There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend—those with college degrees are less likely to have obesity compared with less educated women.
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
For citizens of the United States, the stakes are high. Health-related issues that occur because of obesity are killing people off sooner than they should be dying. It’s creating population gaps in certain demographics, with middle-aged White/Caucasian men affected the most. The cost of treating obesity is $147 billion every year and people who are obese have nearly $1,500 more in medical bills they pay annually. Yet in Austria, where Kcal consumption is only 10 fewer per person than the US, the obesity rate is just 9%. Why the difference? The US has different working habits and attitudes toward ready-made foods.
What About The Children?
- About 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are diagnosed as being obese.
- The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 8.4% in 2011-2012.
- In 2011-2012, 8.4% of 2- to 5-year-olds had obesity compared with 17.7% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds.
- Obesity was higher among Hispanics (22.4%) and non-Hispanic blacks (20.2%) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.1%).
- For girls, there is a higher risk of obesity if their parent or head of household did not finish high school [17%] compared to those who had attended college [11%].
- Obesity prevalence was the highest among children in families with an income-to-poverty ratio of 100% or less at 14.5%. When the income-to-poverty ratio is 50% or less, the obesity rate is 14.2%.
- From 2003 through 2010, the prevalence of obesity decreased slightly from 15.21% to 14.94%. Similarly, the prevalence of extreme obesity decreased from 2.22% to 2.07%.
The measurement for obesity in children is based on BMI charts and a child placing in the 95th percentile or above for their weight. This means there is a small, but significant chance that some children may not actually be obese. Having the percentages drop over the last decade is also encouraging for children in America, but the slight increase in extreme obesity is concerning. Even in low-income families, however, levels are lowering in children and that’s great news. Now we need to get the adults involved.
Why Americans Must Act Now
- 68.8% of the adult population is considered to be overweight in the United States.
- 1 in 20 adults is considered to have extreme obesity.
- 75% of men are considered to be either overweight or obese.
- Women have 2x the risk compared to men in the US for extreme obesity, defined as a BMI of over 40.
- 13.1% of African-Americans/Blacks deal with extreme obesity, which is the largest percentage of any racial demographic.
Since 1960, according to information from NIH, the prevalence of obesity in American adults has doubled. It has remained fairly stable since 1999, but all men, African-American women, and Hispanic women have seen significant increases in certain areas – especially extreme obesity. It’s not just money that is at stake here. It’s lives. That’s why understanding the significance of the obesity demographics in America is so important.