CDC: Adult Obesity Rising, Racial and Ethnic Disparities Still Exist

September 22, 2020

New CDC data show 12 states had an adult obesity prevalence of ≥35% in 2019 compared to 9 states in 2018 and 6 states in 2017.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its 2019 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps, which show that the prevalence of adult obesity has increased in the US and that notable ethnic and disparities persist.

The maps show 12 states now have an adult obesity prevalence of ≥35% (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) compared to 9 states in 2018 and 6 states in 2017.

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the maps show adult obesity prevalence by race, ethnicity, and location based on self-reported height and weight data.

Combined data from 2017-2019 showed notable differences by race and ethnicity as non-Hispanic black adults had the highest prevalence of self-reported obesity (39.8%), followed by Hispanic adults (33.8%), and non-Hispanic white adults (29.9%).

Also, between 2017 and 2019:

  • 34 states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence of ≥35% among non-Hispanic black adults.
  • 15 states had an obesity prevalence of ≥35% among Hispanic adults.
  • 6 states had an obesity prevalence of ≥35% among non-Hispanic white adults.

In addition to the maps, the CDC also released a summary statement on obesity and race and ethnicity in relation to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) risk. Key takeaways from the statement include:

  1. Obesity worsens outcomes from COVID-19, increasing the risk of severe illness.
  2. Having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19.
  3. Obesity disproportionately impacts some racial and ethnic minority groups who are also at increased risk of COVID-19.
  4. Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity underscore the need to remove barriers to healthy living.
  5. Obesity is linked to impaired immune function.
  6. As body mass index increases, the risk of death from COVID-19 increases.
  7. Obesity decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation difficult.