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New research reveals which U.S. states have the highest and lowest obesity rates. halbergman/Getty Images
  • A new report shows which ten states have the highest obesity rates in the U.S.
  • Many of these states also ranked low for public health and overall healthcare.
  • Other factors that influence obesity rates include poverty, culture, and education.
  • The internet can provide people with many resources to aid in weight loss.

People are considered to be overweight if their weight exceeds what is deemed to be normal for a person of their height.

More specifically, a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 defines the condition of being overweight, while those who have a BMI of 30 or greater are classified as having obesity.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that as of 2017-2018, 42.4% of adults in the U.S. are living with obesity.

Further, 9.2% met the criterion for severe obesity — having a BMI of greater than 40.

Now, as a part of their Best States 2024 rankings, the U.S. News & World Report has broken down which states currently have the highest obesity ratings.

U.S. News & World Report explained that they examined obesity rates in all 50 states by looking at self-reported survey data from the Behavioral Risk Surveillance System.

This system involves the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the various state health departments working together to compile data.

The news outlet further explained that obesity rates fall into the public health subcategory of their analysis of the best states for healthcare as well as their best states overall rankings.

The state with the highest ranking for obesity rate was West Virginia, coming in at 41.3%.

Following West Virginia, in order, were:

  • Oklahoma (40.3%)
  • Louisiana (40.0%)
  • Mississippi (39.7%)
  • Tennessee (39.1%)
  • Ohio (38.0%)
  • Alabama (37.9%)
  • Indiana (37.9%)
  • Delaware (37.8%)
  • Kentucky (37.8%)

U.S. News & World Report further noted that many of the states that had high rates of obesity also didn’t rank well when it came to public health and overall healthcare.

Starting with the lowest-ranked state and going up, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky were all in the bottom ten when it came to public health.

Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and Indiana ranked among the ten worst with respect to overall healthcare.

The states that had the lowest obesity rates were Colorado, followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Montana.

Dr. Kubanych Takyrbashev, Health & Wellness Advisor at NAO, said, “Obesity rates can vary significantly from state to state, and several factors contribute to these differences.”

One major factor is socioeconomic status, he said. “States with higher poverty rates often have higher obesity rates because individuals living in poverty have limited access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.”

Cultural and environmental factors can also play a role.

“States with a culture of sedentary lifestyles or where unhealthy food options are more prevalent may see higher obesity rates,” he explained.

Finally, Takyrbashev pointed to the influence of healthcare and education on obesity rates.

“[I]ndividuals in states with better healthcare access and education may have more resources to address and prevent obesity,” he said.

Mary J. Charlot, RN, MSN, FNP-C, who is a family nurse practitioner and founder of NP’s Hired Health & Weight Loss as well as an expert contributor to Drugwatch, said there are several ways to get help with obesity right from the comfort of your own home.

“With the internet, we literally have access to so much information with just the click of our finger,” she said. “Use the internet to gain education, seek out online coaching and nutritional programs, and online fitness videos, and utilize telehealth options to connect with obesity treatment specialists.”

Takyrbashev noted that online support groups can also provide valuable information and encouragement.

Also, don’t rule out getting help right where you live. “Community programs and initiatives, even if limited, can offer support groups or educational workshops,” he said.

Finally, you can utilize self-directed approaches, said Takyrbashev. These include trusted online resources for meal planning and exercise routines, which he says can be effective for many.

The U.S. News & World Report has released its Best States 2024 lists, which includes rankings for obesity rates.

West Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Delaware, and Kentucky were the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates.

Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Montana had the lowest obesity rates on the other end of the spectrum.

Many of the states with the highest obesity rates also ranked low in public health and overall healthcare.

Experts say these factors, as well as socioeconomic status, education, and culture, can contribute to differences between states.

However, the internet can provide people with education, support groups, and access to telemedicine providers to help them with their weight loss goals.