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In U.S., Obesity Peaks in Middle Age

In U.S., Obesity Peaks in Middle Age

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Roughly 3 in 10 Americans aged 45 to 64 are obese, more than in any other age group, according to data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

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Among Americans aged 18 to 29, 18.2% are obese. This shoots up 10 percentage points to 28.3% among 30- to 44-year-olds. Obesity then creeps slightly higher among middle-aged Americans to 30.8% before dropping off among seniors.

According to Gallup-Healthways Daily tracking data collected between January-August 2010, an average of 26.7% of adult Americans are obese, based on their self-reported height and weight. This is on par with the 26.5% in 2009, but up significantly from 25.5% in 2008.

Obesity Disproportionately High Among Black Americans of All Ages

No matter their race, middle-aged Americans are consistently the most likely to be obese when compared with those in other age groups. Also, black and Hispanic Americans within every age group are more obese than Americans overall, while whites and Asians are below the national average.

More broadly, black Americans aged 45 to 64 are the most likely of any of the racial and ethnic groups used in this analysis, at any age, to be obese, at 41%.

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Previous Gallup findings have confirmed that black Americans in general are among the most likely of all key demographic and socioeconomic groups to be obese. Middle-aged Americans rank among the subgroups with the highest levels of obesity in the country.

Bottom Line

While Gallup finds obesity rates on the rise across the United States, certain key groups bring up the high national average of 26.7%. Helping black, Hispanic, and middle-aged Americans reduce their weight is thus critical to meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's goal of lowering obesity prevalence to 15%. Only Asian Americans currently meet this goal.

High obesity rates among black and Hispanic Americans are in part reflective of socioeconomic differences apparent within these groups. Access to healthy foods, a place to exercise, and increased education are all important targets for decreasing obesity levels among these groups.

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

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 218,256 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 1-Aug. 25, 2010, as part of 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 error is ±1 percentage point.

For results based on the samples of 176,445 white, 13,995 black, and 13,307 Hispanic Americans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

For results based on the sample of 2,816 Asian Americans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

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

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