The States With the Fastest Growing Obesity Problem
Life + Money

The States With the Fastest Growing Obesity Problem

Reuters/Toby Melville

America might be the land of the free, but it’s also the land of love handles, beer guts and thunder thighs.

According to the latest research, Americans are heavier than ever. The national obesity rate hit an all-time high of 28 percent in 2015, up from 25.5 percent in 2008.  

Related: 14 States Where Obesity Is Growing Fastest

Gallup defines obese as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. The new data, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, is based on more than 177,000 interviews with adults in the U.S.

West Virginia ranks as the heftiest state, with an adult obesity rate of 37 percent. In a close second, Mississippi has an obesity rate of 35.5 percent, and Delaware rounds out the top three with a rate of 33.8 percent. 

Hawaii ranks as the leanest state, with an adult obesity rate of 18.5 percent. Hawaii and Colorado, which has the second-lowest obesity level at 19.8 percent, are the only two states that boast obesity rates below one fifth of their adult population.  

Although all regions of the country saw a jump in their obese populations, the South has the biggest problem with excess weight. However, the state with the fastest growing obesity problem is well above the Mason-Dixon line. Maine saw its obese population grow at a rate of 26.5 percent between 2008 and 2015. Other fast-growing states include Idaho (23.8 percent growth rate), West Virginia (21.3 percent) and Oklahoma (19.6 percent). (Click here to review the fastest growing states.)

As obesity rates surge, so do the health care costs that go along with it. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually for the treatment of obesity-related chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among others. The annual medical costs for an obese person, on average, are $1,573 more than for someone of normal weight, according to Gallup. With obesity on the rise and no reprieve in sight, costs will only continue to grow.

Click here to see the 14 states where obesity is growing fastest.