NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obesity's Toll

October 1, 2015

Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States. Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually and with lower productivity while at work, costing employers $506 per worker per year.

  • More than a third of adults (34.9 percent) were obese as of 2011 to 2012. More than two-thirds of adults were overweight or obese (68.6 percent). Approximately 17 percent of children and teenagers (ages 2 to 19) were obese from 2011 to 2012 and 31.8 percent were either overweight or obese.
  • Individuals with lower income and/or education levels are disproportionately more likely to be obese. More than 33 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 per year are obese, compared with 24.6 percent of those who earned at least $50,000 per year.
  • Around 3.5 percent of U.S. children and teens (ages 2 to 19) are underweight. Combining underweight (3.5 percent) and obese (17 percent) children — 20.5 percent of children have increased health risks due to being at an unhealthy weight.
  • Eighty percent of American adults do not meet the government's physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening. Sixty percent of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits.
  • Sedentary adults pay $1,500 more per year in healthcare costs than physically active adults.

According to the most recent data released September 2015, rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent in three states (Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi), 22 states have rates above 30 percent, 45 states are above 25 percent and every state is above 20 percent. Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9 percent, while Colorado has the lowest at 21.3 percent.

Source: "Obese Rates and Trends," The State of Obesity, September 2015.

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