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Eye-opening Obesity Statistics For 2023

Last modified: Mar 23, 2023

Insurers may charge higher premiums when providing health insurance to obese people.  In some cases, health insurance for obese people may cost 25% to 50% more than coverage for those with a BMI below 30. Some insurers may even deny coverage for obese people. 

So we curated obesity statistics worldwide and in the United States. We will also cover obesity statistics by age, gender, and socio-economic status. 

Obesity Statistics —Top Picks 

Here are our top picks for obesity statistics around the world and in the United States. 

What Is BMI? 

The most common metric used for assessing obesity in an individual is the body mass index (BMI) scale. The World Health Organization defines BMI as “a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight, and obesity in adults.

It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m²).

For example, an adult who weighs 70 kg and whose height is 1.75 m will have a BMI of 22.9.” The measured BMI values determine whether an individual is underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. These categories are defined by WHO using the cut-off points, which we will share in the table below. 

Classification BMI (kg/m2)
  Principal Cut-Off Points Additional Cut-Off Points
Underweight <18.50 <18.50
Severe Thinness <16.00 <16.00
Moderate Thinness 16.00 – 16.99 16.00 – 16.99
Mild Thinness 17.00 – 18.49 17.00 – 18.49
Normal Range 18.50 – 24.99 18.50 – 22.9923.00 – 24.99
Overweight >25.00 >25.00
Pre-Obese 25.00 – 29.99 25.00 – 27.4927.50 – 29.99
Obese >30.00 >30.00
Obese Class 1 30.00 – 34.99 30.00 – 32.4932.50 – 34.99
Obese Class 2 35.00 – 39.99 35.00 – 37.4937.50 – 39.99 
Obese Class 3 >40.00 >40.00 

What Is the Fundamental Cause of Obesity?

The primary cause of obesity is the energy imbalance between the calories you consume and expend. Generally, it is caused by a combination of psychological, physical, genetic, and environmental factors. Some medical conditions and diseases can also contribute to the condition.  Some of the leading causes of obesity include:

Preventing obesity involves a combination of many factors, such as:


Impacts of Obesity 

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States and worldwide, which seriously impacts people’s health.  Let’s look at some stats on obesity below. 

Which Countries Have the Highest Prevalence of Obesity?

Source: worldpopulationreview.com

Nauru has the highest obesity rate in the world at 61%. It is a Pacific island nation with approximately 10,000 inhabitants. Their diet mainly consists of rice, noodles, soda, and tin food. The biggest health concern among the people of Nauru is Type 2 diabetes. 

The highest obesity rates by country is as follows:

Nauru 61.00%
Cook Islands 55.90%
Palau 55.30%
Marshall Islands 52.90%
Tuvalu 51.60%
Niue 50.00%
Tonga 48.20%
Samoa 47.30%
Kiribati 46.00%
Micronesia 45.80%

The following countries have the lowest obesity rates:

Vietnam 2.10%
Bangladesh 3.60%
Timor Leste 3.80%
India 3.90%
Cambodia 3.90%
Nepal 4.10%
Japan 4.30%
Ethiopia 4.50%
South Korea 4.70%
Eritrea 5.00%

What Percentage of Adults in the U.S. Are Obese?

Obesity by Age, According to Data Published by the CDC in 2017–2018:

Age Women Men
20–39 years old 39.7% 40.3%
40–59 years old 43.3% 46.4%
60 years or older 43.3% 42.2%

Obesity Disproportionately Affects U.S. Minorities

Obesity in America by Race, According to Data Published by the CDC in 2017–2018:

Non-Hispanic Black Adults 49.6%
Hispanic Adults 44.8%
Non-Hispanic White Adults 42.2%
Non-Hispanic Asian Adults 17.4%

Which States Have the Highest Obesity Rates in America?

Source: CDC

Mississippi 40.8%
West Virginia 39.7%
Alabama 36.1%
Arkansas 37.4%
Louisiana 35.9%

Which States Have the Lowest Obesity Rates in America?

Colorado 23.8%
Washington, D.C. 23.8%
Hawaii 25.0%
Massachusetts 25.2%
California 26.2%

How Much Does Obesity Cost the American Healthcare System? 

That is a staggering amount, and if obesity isn’t curbed, it will put a strain on the healthcare system. 

Obesity in America also impacts other costs that are harder to measure. Obese workers tend to miss more working days than healthy workers due to frequent health problems. Employers are also likely to pay higher worker’s compensation and insurance premiums for obese workers. Some studies have revealed that the wages of obese workers are lower than those of healthy workers. 

What Percentage of Children Are Overweight and/or Obese?

Childhood obesity is a pressing issue in the United States, which puts adolescents and children at risk of poor health later in life. Despite the threat, the prevalence of obesity among adolescents and children remains high all around the world. 

The only good news here is that obesity rates among preschoolers have been dropping recently.

That increases their risks of suffering from health complications and numerous other chronic diseases. 

The percentage of obese children has risen over the years, and if no steps are taken, it could spell disaster for the next generation of adults. 

There are currently more obese children and adolescents between 5 and 10 than ever. That’s why measures must be taken to reduce these numbers and improve children’s quality of life.  Breaking the age groups down further:

Age Group Obesity Prevalence
2–5 year-olds: 13.4%
6–11-year-olds: 20.3%
12–19-year-olds: 21.2%

Most parents think that their children look adorable when they put on a little weight, but there is a real risk of letting that get out of control. As a parent, you must inculcate healthy eating habits in your kids and ensure they get enough physical exercise

Childhood Obesity Prevalence by Race, According to Data Published by the CDC in 2017–2018:

Age Group Obesity Prevalence
Hispanic Children 25.6%
Non-Hispanic Black Children 24.2%
Non-Hispanic White Children 16.1%
Non-Hispanic Asian Children 8.7%

Obesity and COVID-19 

Obesity-related conditions worsen the effects of COVID-19, and it is harder to intubate patients with obesity. Ever since the start of the pandemic, numerous studies have reported that most of the sickest COVID-19 patients are obese or overweight. 

What Are the Common Health Effects of Obesity?

Being obese can hinder a person’s quality of life and lead to serious health problems like heart disease, sleep apnea, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, and joint problems. Even though obesity isn’t a direct cause for any of these conditions, it increases the chances of suffering from health-related complications. 

This statistic points to the rising number of hospitalization cases in the United States when obese patients were admitted with serious health complications. 

There is a serious threat to your life if you suffer from obesity. The chances of obese individuals dying due to health complications are higher than those of healthy individuals. 

There are times when your lifestyle choices are not to be blamed for your obesity. Some diseases may cause obesity, including Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and insulin resistance. 

Around the world, obesity is one of the top five leading causes of death, contributing to nearly 3 million obesity deaths annually. The other leading causes are high blood glucose, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure. 

Researchers have found that men with waist circumferences in the highest 10% of measurements were 20 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than others. Waist measurements can also help predict which people with low or normal weight may develop diabetes. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise now, but being obese or overweight increases your risk of suffering from dozens of health complications and diseases. These diseases include cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and stroke. 

Steps to Take to End Obesity

Wondering how to fight obesity? Due to the harmful impact of obesity on society and an individual’s health, households, communities, and governments need to take appropriate steps to end obesity. The food industry can play a major role here by promoting healthier diets by:


What Can You Do as an Individual?

Since obesity rates in America are high, we should understand that obesity isn’t going to be eradicated if individuals don’t take responsibility for their actions. They must incorporate a healthy diet into their daily life and make an effort to get regular physical activity.  It may be hard, but you should try:


Final Verdict 

Obese and overweight people face a lot of health concerns and complications. Being obese or overweight increases a person’s risk for many underlying medical conditions and diseases. Unfortunately, obesity rates are rising in the United States and worldwide, and something must be done to stop this epidemic.  Since obesity is preventable, following a healthy diet regimen combined with regular exercise can help you lose weight and maintain it. The obesity statistics we shared today should be an eye-opener for many people as the consequences of obesity will cripple your quality of life and take its toll on your overall health and lifespan.  


What Age Does Obesity Affect the Most?

Obesity in America is most common during middle age. Adults between 40 to 59 years old are at the highest risk of becoming obese. Currently, over 44% of these adults are obese. The age groups 60 and above and 20–39 follow, with the current obesity rates of 42.8% and 40.0%, respectively. 

Who Is to Blame for Obesity in America?

A nationwide survey in the United States revealed that 80% of people ascribed primary blame for obesity to individuals. A further 59% blamed parents for the rise in obesity in America. Somewhat surprisingly, farmers, restaurants, grocers, manufacturers, and the government received less blame.

How to Combat Childhood Obesity?

Caregivers and parents should take steps to prevent and combat childhood obesity by encouraging daily physical activity, providing healthy meals and snacks, and educating children about nutrition.  Increasing children’s physical activity helps prevent the health effects of obesity and maintain their weight. Healthy meals and snacks provide the necessary nutrition for growing bodies. Apart from that, nutrition education helps one develop an awareness of good nutrition and adopt healthy eating habits. 

What Percentage of Type 2 Diabetics Are Overweight?

According to The National Diabetes Statistics Report of 2020, 89% of adults aged 18 and above with Type 2 diabetes were overweight or obese in 2013–2016. Out of 89%:

People with extreme obesity are at a greater risk of getting Type 2 diabetes than obese people with a lower BMI. Obese individuals with Type 2 diabetes were younger, had higher blood pressures, poorer glycaemic control, and worse lipid profiles than patients with BMI<30 kg/m².

What Percentage of Americans Are Overweight?

According to obesity statistics, over 40% of American adults aged 20 and above are considered obese today. Out of them, over 73% are overweight. Today, Americans are eating more calories than they did in 1970.  The calorie imbalance is the leading cause of obesity and weight gain for the average American. When you consume more than you burn, your body stores the extra energy as body fat, which increases over time and causes obesity.

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