Adult Americans Keep Getting Fatter, Gallup Survey Reveals

By Penny Starr | April 18, 2014 | 2:10 PM EDT

(AP photo)

( – Despite government efforts to combat obesity, Americans keep getting fatter, especially those who live in the South and Midwest, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released in March.

"More than two in 10 adults were obese in nearly every state in 2013, with the exception of Montana,” the self-reporting survey states.

“Three in 10 adults were obese in 11 states -- Mississippi, West Virginia, Delaware, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Alaska -- compared with only five states in 2012.”

The survey was based on telephone interviews between Jan. 2 and Dec. 29, 2013 from a random sample of 178,072 adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that the percentage of obese adult Americans increased from 26.2 percent in 2012 to 27.1 percent in 2013.

The number of obese adults is up 1.6 percent since 2008 when Gallup started conducting the survey.

Mississippi weighed-in as the state with the highest obesity rate at 35.4 percent, while Montana’s 19.6 percent was the lowest in the nation.

With the exception of Delaware (third at 34.3 percent), the states rounding out the Top 10 for the most obese adult population were all in the South or the Midwest, including: Louisiana (32.7 percent); Arkansas (32.3 percent); South Carolina (31.4 percent); Tennessee (31.3 percent); Ohio (30.9 percent); Kentucky (30.6 percent) and Oklahoma (30.5 percent).

However, the Top 10 states with the lowest obesity rates were more geographically distributed:

  1. Montana (19.6 percent);
  2. Colorado (20.4 percent);
  3. Nevada (21.1 percent);
  4. Minnesota (22 percent);
  5. Massachusetts (22.2 percent);
  6. Connecticut (23.2 percent);
  7. New Mexico (23.5 percent) ;
  8. California (23.6 percent);
  9. Hawaii (23.7 percent); and
  10. New York (24 percent).

“Obesity rates continue to be highest in Southern and Midwestern states and lowest in Western and Northeastern states, a trend that has been ongoing since Gallup and Healthways began tracking the obesity rate in 2008,” the survey states.

The survey also shows that people living in the 10 states with the highest obesity levels “are most likely” to report a chronic disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, cancer and heart attack.

Moreover, the survey shows that the people responding to the survey in states with the lowest rates of obesity report healthier eating habits and exercising more frequently.

"While there are a variety of factors that are often correlated with rising obesity rates, such as an unhealthy food environment, poor eating habits, increasing portion sizes, and inactivity, experts agree that the health consequences of obesity are real," Dr. James E. Pope, senior vice president and chief science officer at Healthways said. "Research has shown that the average healthcare costs for an obese individual are over $1,300 more annually than someone who is not obese.”

In June 2013, the American Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease, the survey notes. It also notes that according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the obesity rate for children aged 2 to 5 has decreased 43 percent during the past decade.

The survey’s margin of error for most states in the survey is +1 to +2 percentage points, but is as high as +4 for states with smaller populations, such as Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware and Hawaii.