Well-Being Prevention & Cures

These are the most overweight states in the US

A new WalletHub analysis found West Virginia is the most overweight and obese state in the country.
Map of United States.

Story at a glance

  • Colorado was found to be the least obese and overweight state.

  • More than 42 percent of adults in the United States are currently obese while nearly three-quarters are overweight, according to the CDC.

  • Rising rates are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, along with lack of exercise and increased intake of unhealthy processed food.

Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly identified the source of an analysis on the most and least healthy states in the country.

West Virginia is the most overweight and obese state in the country, according to a new report from WalletHub

It’s followed by Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama, respectively. 

CDC data show that nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults aged 20 or older are overweight, while 42 percent are obese. Rates have also been rising in recent years, putting a strain on the country’s health system. 

Researchers at WalletHub compiled the list based on 31 metrics grouped into three categories: obesity and overweight prevalence; health consequences; and food and fitness. These categories included factors like rates of sugary beverage consumption among adolescents and obesity-related health care costs.

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Tennessee, Louisiana, Delaware, Oklahoma and South Carolina rounded out the top 10 most overweight and obese states. 

In contrast, Colorado ranked as the least overweight and obese state, along with Utah, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Hawaii. 

Findings are similar to a previous analysis, ranking the most and least healthy states in the country. That list ranked Washington, Massachusetts, Utah and Vermont at the top and found states concentrated in the southeast were the least healthy overall. 

The CDC defines being overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. However, some experts argue BMI is not the best way to gauge body fat because it cannot differentiate between bone density, muscle mass, and body fat.

Based on the percentage of overweight adults alone, the top five states were Wyoming, New Jersey, Arizona, California and Tennessee.

The percentage of obese adults was highest in West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

New York and Ohio were tied for the highest percentage of overweight children.

Overweight and obesity are key risk factors for poor health outcomes including diabetes, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease, among other serious conditions. Overweight and obese individuals are also at an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

It’s estimated obesity costs the health care system around $173 billion each year, while the growing prevalence has led to a spike in profits for the weight loss and diet industries.

Both environmental and genetic factors contribute to being overweight and obese, while numerous social determinants of health have been linked with varying rates among different demographic groups. 

But increasing consumption of healthy food can help reverse trends, as can boosting physical activity. According to data from the Physical Activity Council, more than 70 million Americans aged 6 and older were entirely inactive in 2021.

In addition, when it comes to losing weight, some experts emphasize the need to switch the focus from total body weight to individual health.

“The biggest mistake people make is being weight focused,” Fatma G. Huffman, a professor in the department of dietetics and nutrition at Florida International University, told WalletHub.

“Weight concerns should be directed to focus on health, not weight.”

–Updated on Nov. 16 at 1:54 p.m.