CDC Map Reveals the Most Obese States in America

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) map shows the American states and territories with the highest and lowest levels of obesity.

West Virginia ranks as the state with the most obesity in the nation, with a prevalence of 40.6 percent. The state was followed closely by Kentucky with a prevalence of 40.3 percent.

Obesity is a common condition in the United States, affecting around one in five children and one in three adults, CDC figures show. An estimated 70 million adults in the country are obese—in 2017 41.9 percent of the adult population was classified as obese.

Prevalence of self-reported obesity among U.S. adults
A map showing the prevalence of self-reported obesity among U.S. adults by state and territory. The map was produced using data collected from 2019-2021 by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. CDC

The condition has a significant impact on the health of individuals and is associated with a higher risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, severe COVID-19 outcomes, as well as poor mental health.

Annually, the United States spends approximately $147 billion on health care related to the obesity epidemic.

A person is considered to be affected by obesity when their weight is higher than what is deemed healthy for a given height. For adults, a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or more falls within the obese range, while 40.0 or higher is categorized as "severe" obesity. BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. (You can calculate your BMI using this tool.)

The CDC map was created using data from 2019-2021 collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System—an ongoing phone interview survey conducted by the agency and state health departments.

The data shows that nineteen states and two U.S. territories have an adult obesity prevalence of 35 percent and over—more than double the number that had a high prevalence in 2018, according to the CDC. A notable absence is Florida, which reported insufficient data to be included on the map.

Man on scales and American flags
Stock image: Split picture showing an individual standing on scales and the American flag. The United States spends approximately $147 billion on obesity-related health care every year. iStock

The states and territories with an obesity prevalence of more than 35 percent are: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Overall, the South had the highest prevalence of obesity (36.3 percent) among all the regions, with the Midwest coming in second (35.4 percent), followed by the Northeast (29.9 percent) and the West (28.7 percent).

The data also reveals how obesity appears to be more prevalent in certain groups. For example, no states and territories out of 37 that reported sufficient data had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among Asian adults. This compares to 36 states and the District of Columbia out of a total of 47 jurisdictions with sufficient data reporting a prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic Black adults.

Significant differences can also be seen in age and education levels. For example, adults without a high-school degree or equivalent had the highest rates of obesity (37.8 percent), with college graduates having the lowest (26.3 percent).

Meanwhile, adults aged 18-24 had the lowest rates of obesity (20.7 percent) compared to adults aged 45-54 who had the highest (39.3 percent).

On the other end of the scale, the District of Columbia reportedly has the lowest rate of obesity in the United States with a prevalence of 24.7 percent.

Other states that have lower prevalences of obesity include Colorado (25.1 percent), Massachusetts (27.4 percent), California (27.6 percent), New Jersey (28.2 percent), Washington (28.8 percent), New York (29.1 percent) and Vermont (29 percent), according to the CDC map.