America's growing obesity epidemic: 3 charts explain obesity rates across the US

More than 4 in 10 Americans now fit the medical definition for having obesity, putting them at risk for serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. But when looking obesity rates at the state level, that number can be even more drastic.

Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 22 states have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%, compared to 19 states in 2021. Just ten years ago, no state passed the 35% threshold of adult obesity. A state-by-state look at adult obesity rates highlights the necessity of public health support at a more localized level, according to the CDC.

Which states have the highest rates of adult obesity?

These states have the highest obesity prevalence among adults (35% or higher):

  • Alabama

  • Arkansas

  • Delaware

  • Georgia

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Nebraska

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Virginia

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin

Obesity rates among adults and youth continue to increase

Inequality persists: Rates of obesity vary depending on race, ethnicity

How can communities address obesity?

Ensuring access to healthy foods, safe places for physical activity, stigma-free obesity prevention and treatment programs, and evidence-based health care services such as medication and surgery are examples of ways to address and prevent obesity, according to the CDC.

Karen Hacker is the director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She said there is not singular approach to addressing obesity: "Obesity is a disease caused by many factors, including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and certain medications. This means that there is no one size fits all approach." Hacker continued, "However, we know the key strategies that work include addressing the underlying social determinants of health such as access to healthcare, healthy and affordable food, and safe places for physical activity.”

What is causing the obesity epidemic in America?

USA TODAY analyzed how America’s weight has been changing in recent years, including advances in treatments and the scientific understanding of obesity. Reporters spoke with more than 50 experts – in nutrition, endocrinology, psychology, exercise physiology and neuroscience – and people who are intimately familiar with the challenges of extra pounds. Here is what they discovered.

The obesity epidemic: Obesity was long considered a personal failing. Science shows it's not.

Inside America's obesity epidemic: How America's weight (and weight loss) aren't so simple

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Which states have the highest obesity rates? These charts explain