home   Overweight and obesity are found worldwide, and the prevalence of these conditions in the United States ranks high along with other developed nations.

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about overweight and obesity statistics. Data are based on NHANES 2001 to 2004. Unless otherwise specified, the figures given represent age-adjusted estimates. Age-adjusted estimates are used in order to account for the age variations among the groups being compared. Population numbers are based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureauís Current Population Survey.

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are overweight or obese (BMI > 25)?

A: About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.[6]

All adults: 133.6 million (66 percent)
Women: 65 million (61.6 percent)
Men: 68.3 million (70.5 percent)

* The statistics presented here are based on the following definitions unless otherwise specified: healthy weight = BMI > 18.5 to < 25; overweight = BMI > 25 to < 30; obesity = BMI > 30; and extreme obesity = BMI > 40.

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are obese (BMI > 30)?

A: Nearly one-third of U.S. adults are obese.[6]

All adults: 63.6 million (31.4 percent)
Women: 35 million (33.2 percent)
Men: 28.6 million (29.5 percent)

Q: How many adults age 20 and older are at a healthy weight (BMI > 18.5 through 24.9)?

A: Less than one-third of U.S. adults are at a healthy weight.[6]

All adults: 65.4 million (32.3 percent)
Women: 38.1 million (36.1 percent)
Men: 27.4 million (28.3 percent)

Q: How has the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults changed over the years?

A: The prevalence has steadily increased over the years among both genders, all ages, all racial and ethnic groups, all educational levels, and all smoking levels.[7] From 1960 to 2004, the prevalence of overweight increased from 44.8 to 66 percent in U.S. adults age 20 to 74.[6] The prevalence of obesity during this same time period more than doubled among adults age 20 to 74 from 13.3 to 32.1 percent, with most of this rise occurring since 1980.[6]

Q: What is the prevalence of overweight or obesity in minorities?

A: Among women, the age-adjusted prevalence of overweight or obesity (BMI > 25) in racial and ethnic minorities is higher among non-Hispanic Black and Mexican-American women than among non-Hispanic White women.  Among men, there is little difference in prevalence among these three groups [6]. Sufficient data for other racial and ethnic minorities has not yet been collected.

Non-Hispanic Black Women: 79.6 percent
Mexican-American Women: 73 percent
Non-Hispanic White Women: 57.6 percent

Non-Hispanic Black Men: 67 percent
Mexican-American Men: 74.6 percent
Non-Hispanic White Men: 71 percent
(Statistics are for populations age 20 and older.)

Studies using this definition of overweight and obesity provide ethnicity-specific data only for these three racial and ethnic groups. Studies using different BMI cutoff points derived from NHANES II data to define overweight and obesity have reported a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among Hispanics and American Indians. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Asian Americans is lower than in the population as a whole.[1]

Q: What is the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents?

A: While there is no generally accepted definition for obesity as distinct from overweight in children and adolescents, the prevalence of overweight* is increasing for children and adolescents in the United States. Approximately 17.5 percent of children (age 6 to 11) and 17 percent of adolescents (age 12 to 19) were overweight in 2001 to 2004.[6]

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Originally published by the NIDDK










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