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Well-Being

Low Incomes Tied to High Weight for Women, Not for Men

Well-Being

Low Incomes Tied to High Weight for Women, Not for Men

Low Incomes Tied to High Weight for Women, Not for Men

Story Highlights

  • Low-income women weigh more on average than those with high incomes
  • Low-income men weigh less on average than those with high incomes
  • Gender, income related to views on being obese, desire to lose weight

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' income has a significant connection to how much they weigh, but in totally different ways for men and women. For women, the lower the income, the higher their weight tends to be. For men, the reverse is true.

American men in the past decade have weighed, on average, 10 pounds more in households with earnings of $75,000 or more (200 pounds) than in households with earnings of less than $30,000 (190 pounds). Women in the high-income bracket weigh, on average, 12 pounds less than those in low-income households -- 152 pounds versus 164 pounds, respectively.

Average Self-Reported Weights for American Men and Women
All adults Men Women
pounds pounds pounds
Overall average 178 196 159
Annual household income
Less than $30,000 175 190 164
$30,000-$74,999 179 195 161
$75,000 and above 179 200 152
Aggregated Gallup polls, 2009-2018

These results are based on aggregated data from Gallup's annual November Health and Healthcare surveys from 2009 to 2018. Over that time, Gallup has asked more than 10,000 respondents how much they weigh, with men reporting an average weight of 196 pounds and women an average weight of 159 pounds. In the most recent survey, both men and women are reporting slightly elevated weight levels, but the patterns of weight by gender and income have continued to hold.

Men, Women Differ by Income on Being Overweight, Wanting to Lose Weight

Income can also be a factor when men and women are asked whether they are overweight or underweight, whether they want to lose weight and whether they are seriously trying to lose weight.

  • Thirty-eight percent of men with higher incomes describe themselves as overweight, compared with 28% of lower-income men. Among women, 35% in the highest income bracket say they are overweight, 10 percentage points below the 45% among lower- and middle-income women.

  • Women in the highest income bracket are as likely as those in the lowest to say they want to lose weight (60% each), but among men, the higher the income, the greater the likelihood of wanting to lose weight.

  • The percentage of women who say they are "seriously trying to lose weight" is lowest among those with annual household incomes of $75,000 and above (26%), while there is little difference by income among men.

Wrestling With Problems of Weight
Percentage somewhat or seriously overweight; percentage who want to lose weight; percentage seriously trying to lose weight
Annual household income
Less than $30,000 $30,000-$74,999 $75,000 and above
% % %
Women who say they are overweight 45 45 35
Men who say they are overweight 28 34 38
Women who would like to lose weight 60 63 60
Men who would like to lose weight 38 46 55
Women who are seriously trying to lose weight 33 31 26
Men who are seriously trying to lose weight 23 20 24
Aggregated Gallup polls, 2009-2018

Overall, women (42%) are more likely than men (34%) to say they are overweight and are more likely than men to say they want to lose weight (61% vs. 47%, respectively). Both women (30%) and men (22%) are much less likely to say they are seriously trying to lose weight than to say they would like to do so.

Bottom Line

There are no obvious answers for why low-income women are more prone to being overweight, while the reverse is true for men. Undoubtedly, the differing roles the two genders have been assigned by society and the differing pressures they face at various income levels provide some clues.

Clues are needed. The warnings about the dangers of being overweight have been sounded throughout the United States for decades, but obesity levels keep climbing. It is no coincidence that women who report to Gallup that they are in only fair or poor health weigh, on average, almost 30 pounds more than those in excellent health, and the gap for men is more than 20 pounds. It is also no coincidence that the gender-and-income group most likely to be in fair or poor health is women in households with incomes below $30,000. While men with high incomes generally can afford various alternatives for controlling their weight, the challenge can be daunting for women in the lowest income brackets.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/244961/low-incomes-tied-high-weight-women-not-men.aspx
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