The obesity epidemic in the U.S. is a major health issue, and it's getting worse. The current national adult obesity rate is 29.7%, but almost half of adults are projected to be obese, not just overweight, by 2030, according to Harvard researchers estimates published in December 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While the country as a whole is facing an obesity crisis, the problem is much more pronounced in some states.

West Virginia is the state with the second highest adult obesity rate in the U.S. About 37.8% of adult residents report a body mass index of 30 or greater. High obesity rates can detrimentally affect health.

About 23.6% of adults in West Virginia report being in poor or fair health, the highest share in the U.S. Nationwide, 17.0% of adults report subpar health.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and 15.1% of West Virginia residents over the age of 20 have diabetes, the highest share of all states. The diabetes prevalence across the country among the same age group is 10.5%

There are a multitude of social and economic factors that predispose certain populations to higher obesity rates. People with lower incomes are less able to afford proper medical care and healthy lifestyles, which include eating a healthy diet and having easy access to gyms and other options for physical activity.

The median household income in West Virginia is $48,850 a year, the second lowest in the U.S. and $16,862 less than the median across the country of $65,712 a year.

Insufficient sleep, defined as sleeping less than seven hours per night on average, has been shown to be a contributing factor to obesity. Sleep deprivation interferes with the two hormones that control appetite. Lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of ghrelin (increased appetite) and decreased levels of leptin (diminished feeling of fullness), possibly leading to weight gain.

About 42.5% of adults in West Virginia report not getting enough sleep, the second highest share in the U.S. and compared to 35.2% of U.S. adults.

Health experts have pointed to several lifestyle factors that are likely contributing to the excess weight problem among Americans, including a sedentary lifestyle. The physical inactivity rate in West Virginia is 28.0%, the fifth highest in the U.S. Nationwide, 22.7% of adults don't exercise on a regular basis.

To identify the most obese states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed health data from the 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program. These are the most obese states in America

 

StateAdult obesity ratePop. Over 20 with diabetesAdults in poor or fair healthAdults who don't exercise regularlyMedian household income a year
Mississippi39.1%14.6%22.1%30.4%45,792
West Virginia37.8%15.1%23.6%28.0%48,850
Louisiana36.3%13.0%21.4%28.0%51,073
Alabama36.1%14.5%21.4%29.3%51,734
Arkansas35.0%13.5%23.3%30.4%48,952
Kentucky34.6%12.7%21.8%28.7%52,295
Oklahoma34.5%12.3%20.9%27.8%54,449
Iowa34.3%9.9%13.5%22.6%61,691
South Carolina34.0%13.3%17.8%26.0%56,227
Indiana33.9%12.1%18.2%26.7%57,603
North Dakota33.9%9.4%13.6%23.1%64,577
Ohio33.5%12.2%17.8%26.1%58,642
Nebraska33.4%10.0%13.8%22.7%63,229
Tennessee33.3%12.5%21.2%27.2%56,071
Kansas33.0%10.5%16.3%23.9%62,087
Missouri32.5%11.4%19.5%25.5%57,409
Michigan32.4%11.0%18.3%23.1%59,584
Delaware32.4%11.8%16.3%27.3%70,176
South Dakota32.4%10.1%13.4%22.0%59,533
North Carolina32.3%11.5%18.0%23.3%57,341
Georgia32.3%12.0%18.4%26.4%61,980
Alaska31.9%8.3%15.6%19.3%75,463
Wisconsin31.7%9.5%14.8%20.3%64,168
Maryland31.6%11.1%15.2%21.9%86,738
Texas31.4%10.2%18.7%23.2%64,034
Pennsylvania30.8%11.0%17.6%22.0%63,463
Virginia30.5%10.7%16.6%22.2%76,456
Maine29.8%10.4%17.1%20.8%58,924
Illinois29.7%9.9%15.9%21.6%69,187
Oregon29.3%9.7%18.2%17.3%67,058
Wyoming29.2%9.0%15.3%23.1%65,003
Idaho29.0%9.3%15.1%20.4%60,999
Minnesota29.0%8.5%12.9%19.6%74,593
Washington28.6%9.3%15.0%16.4%78,687
New Hampshire28.6%9.6%12.8%20.8%77,933
Rhode Island28.5%10.1%16.5%23.5%71,169
Arizona27.9%9.6%18.6%21.2%62,055
New Mexico27.3%9.5%20.3%19.0%51,945
Florida27.2%10.8%19.5%25.8%59,227
Montana27.1%8.9%14.1%21.7%57,153
Nevada27.1%10.5%19.1%22.5%63,276
Vermont27.0%8.8%12.8%18.4%63,001
Utah27.0%7.5%14.8%16.7%75,780
New Jersey27.0%9.9%15.5%26.6%85,751
New York26.4%10.1%16.3%23.4%72,108
Connecticut26.3%9.2%13.0%19.9%78,833
Massachusetts25.0%8.7%13.5%20.0%85,843
Hawaii24.6%11.1%15.4%19.6%83,102
California24.3%8.8%17.6%17.7%80,440
Colorado22.4%6.6%13.8%14.8%77,127