Against this rather disconcerting backdrop we present new numbers from Gallup which show that America’s obesity rate climbed to a record high of 28% in 2015.
That’s right, America. A third of you are grossly overweight. As it turns out, whites have seen the sharpest uptick, with obesity rates climbing 2.8% since 2008.
“In addition to the 28.0% who are obese, another 35.6% of adults are classified as overweight, with 34.6% normal weight and 1.8% underweight, as reported in 2015,” Gallup goes on to report, before noting that the incidence of diabetes has trended upwards as well. Here’s more:
These results are based on more than 175,000 interviews conducted each year from 2013 to 2015 and more than 350,000 interviews conducted each year from 2008 to 2012 as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Unlike some government estimates of obesity, the Well-Being Index uses respondents’ self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI). It does not involve in-home clinical measurements that typically result in higher obesity estimates.
Across racial and ethnic groups, increases in obesity and diabetes rates since 2008 have been uneven. Both rates have increased much more among whites than among blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Blacks have the highest obesity rate by far of the major racial and ethnic groups, followed by Hispanics, but these two groups have had comparatively modest increases in obesity since 2008, and have shown little to no change in diabetes diagnoses during this time.
The obesity rate has continued to rise in the U.S. after leveling off from 2011 to 2013, and has done so despite rising public concern. Past research has demonstrated that obesity and its associated chronic conditions including diabetes cost the U.S. economy $153 billion per year in unplanned absenteeism due to poor health, a figure that has increased since the time of that study. And while blacks suffer disproportionately from chronic conditions associated with obesity, the sharp increase in obesity measured among whites since 2008 signifies that this is not a problem isolated to one racial or ethnic group.
Obesity affects all elements of well-being, not just physical wellness. It is associated, for example, with lower financial and social well-being. While obesity can diminish overall well-being, the relationship can also work in reverse; high well-being can reduce the chances of being obese. Those who have high or improving well-being across all five elements — purpose, social, financial, community and physical — are less likely to be obese or to become obese in the future than those who do not.