WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the U.S., 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.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses respondents' self-reports of their height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores, differs slightly from government reports of obesity, which are based on actual heights and weights found in clinical measurements. Individual 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." 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.
Thirty-five percent of Americans 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.
Blacks Adults Still Have Highest Obesity Rate
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 (17.0%) 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.
Reducing obesity rates could unlock a bevy of economic and societal benefits including lower costs to employers. But despite the issue's ample media attention -- including first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, obesity rates have not declined.
"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," said 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."
Focusing on preventing and reducing obesity at the local level could be key to addressing this national health issue. Communities may want to emulate localities like Boulder, Colorado, where residents tend to be very active and obesity rates are significantly lower than is found in other communities across the country.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 1-May 19, 2014, with a random sample of 64,546 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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 www.gallup.com.