The Cost of Obesity in America

Obesity rates in the United States have tripled since the 1960s and doubled since the 1980s. Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, a national epidemic that contributes to chronic disease, disability, and death, and places a large financial strain on the health care system.

While a healthy diet and regular exercise are key to obesity prevention, the causes of obesity are varied and complex — with economic, social, and environmental factors. This means the disease is not only difficult to pin down but it’s also inequitably experienced. Black women, for example, are more likely to be obese than any other demographic group, while Asian men and women have the lowest body mass index ratings.

Below, we examine the scope of this health issue, including who is most affected and how much it is costing us as a nation.

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Citation for this content: MPH@GW, the online MPH program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University