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Americans Making No Progress on Obesity

Americans Making No Progress on Obesity

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans so far in 2010 have yet to reverse the increase in obesity found in 2009. The obesity rate among adults in the U.S. was at 26.7% in the first quarter of the year, similar to the 26.2% found in the fourth quarter of 2009. At the same time, fewer Americans are maintaining a "normal" weight by Body Mass Index (BMI) standards.


The most recent quarterly rates of obesity and normal weight among the U.S. adult population essentially match those found throughout 2009, but they are decidedly worse than 2008 levels.

Gallup calculates BMI scores based on respondents' self-reports of their height and weight collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. BMI values of 30 or above are classified as "obese," 25 to 29.9 are "overweight," 18.5 to 24.9 are "normal weight," and 18.4 or less are "underweight."

Almost All Groups See Obesity Trending Higher

Aggregating data separately for 2008, 2009, and in 2010 to date underscores the pervasiveness of obesity in American society. Obesity rates increased by approximately one percentage point or more within essentially every key demographic group in America in 2009 compared with 2008. These increases spanned demographic groups including age, race, gender, and region.

On a relative basis, obesity rates increased more among women and those living in the South. Black Americans, whose obesity rate of 36.2% is the highest of the groups analyzed here, also saw one of the largest year-over-year increases in obesity rates.

So far, obesity rates in 2010 show little to no significant change among most groups, although obesity within each demographic is more likely to be trending upward than downward since 2008.


Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 677,086 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 1, 2008-April 30, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points.

Approximately 88,000-90,000 surveys are completed each quarter. For quarterly results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

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