According to recent health reports, Americans are now facing issues related to obesity more than ever before. Despite obesity being a nationwide problem, this problem weighs more heavily on some states than others, especially across the Southern half of the nation.
Are Some States More Obese than Others?
Reports reveal that the nation's obesity growth rate over the past decade has increased to the point of an epidemic. More than 20 years ago, no American state had an obesity rate exceeding 15%, but today more than 22 states have rates above 30%, with Mississippi, West Virginia and Arkansas leading with a rate of over 34%.
Even as recently as within the last four years, only one state had more than 30 % of its populace categorized as obese, but today there are 20 states meeting this threshold. That leaves us to ask just what could be the problem, as it cannot be solely lifestyle-related since even one of the most “health-conscious” states, Colorado, has a rate of 21.3%. Colorado’s obesity rate was 7% only 25 years ago, indicating a threefold increase in obesity’s prevalence over the past few decades.
The Effects of Sedentary Lifestyles
Researchers have largely attributed the cause of disparity between states with different obesity rates to varying levels of food insecurity and uneven health care access. They have also noted a few areas where policies and people’s lifestyles have been able to curb the crisis level. For instance, Colorado and Hawaii, with obesity rates of ~21% each, have lifestyles that are less sedentary on average, and people in these states are also the slimmest. These states have a reputation for plentiful biking and hiking trails as well, which serve as everyday reminders as to why you would expect to find the Rocky Mountain and West Coast states having lower rates of obesity.
The Importance of Education
Education level is also one of the strongest influences on adult health. The attainment of higher education levels is directly associated with higher earning potentials, which then allow access to healthier food and medical care. Higher education helps people learn about healthy lifestyle choices, and hence they are better enabled to pursue and maintain such lifestyles. This is one of the reasons you might find the Southern states, where there are higher concentrations of uneducated adults (based on low rates of high school graduation), having higher obesity rates. According to a report by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 33% of adults who never graduated high school are obese
Low Income Levels
High poverty rates are another factor directly correlated to the higher rates of obesity in the Southern states. Poor people may be more likely to be obese since the cheapest foods are often calorically-dense, and stores that offer healthier food choices are often not available in poor neighborhoods and rural communities.
A Winnable Battle
The problem of obesity in America is getting worse, with more and more people becoming affected every year. Since obesity is associated with a number of illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the cost of this issue is also increasing. Nonetheless, the CDC has noted that once nutrition and physical activity changes are made, the obesity crisis will become a “winnable battle.” All that is needed is consistent progress in such areas and with the right development policies, health system access, and environmental initiatives, there can be more lifestyle options available. Many states have begun far-reaching programs that can enable them to tackle obesity, and there have been trends toward improvement. In the end, reducing obesity will only happen if there is a concerted effort to do so by governments, medical practitioners, businesses, and communities.