What You Need to Know
- In one state, 39.7% of adults weighed in 2020 were obese.
- Even in Colorado, the state with the lowest obesity rate, 24% of adults were obese.
- Severe obesity may double the risk that an adult who has COVID-19 will die.
People jokingly refer to the “COVID-19″ as the number of pounds they have gained since the beginning of the pandemic. They may not be wrong, according to a recent analysis by the Trust for America’s Health.
“In 2020, 16 states had adult obesity rates at or above 35%, up from 12 states the previous year,” according to the report. “These and other emerging data show that the COVID-19 pandemic changed eating habits, worsened levels of food insecurity, created obstacles to physical activity and heightened stress, all exacerbating the decades-long pattern of obesity in America.”
The analysis is based on 2020 data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System. Obesity rates vary considerably among states and regions. In 2020, Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate at 39.7%, followed by West Virginia at 39.1% and Alabama at 39%. Colorado had the lowest adult obesity rate nationally at 24.2%.
Reaching the 35% or higher level this year were Delaware, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. The 12 states that continue to have adult rates above 35% are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
“The epidemic of obesity is an urgent problem in the U.S. and has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said J. Nadine Gracia, president and CEO of the trust. “What is needed are transformational policies and bold investment in programs that reduce health inequities and address the social and economic conditions that are barriers to access to affordable, healthy food and physical activity.”
One concern is that obesity has a strong correlation with COVID-19 case severity. Patients under age 65 who had COVID-19 and a body mass index over 45, meaning that they were extremely obese, were twice as likely to die as comparable patients with normal weight, according to a study by members fo the CDC’s COVID-19 response team.
Here are some of the policy recommendations made by the authors of the new study: