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Fast Facts: Obesity & Overweight Statistics–The Supersizing Epidemic of America

May 01, 2002

Obesity and overweight statistics can vary widely from study to study, mainly because of the criteria each uses to classify persons as overweight or obese. Usually, a baseline number represented as body mass index (BMI) is used to differentiate one group from another. The following statistics were provided by the Weight-Control Information Network of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health (except where noted in superscript). The data represent overweight persons as having a BMI greater than 25 and obese persons as having a BMI of 30 or more. Therefore note that the overweight category also includes those who are obese.


Number of overweight adults: 97.1 million

Number of overweight men: 50.2 million

Number of overweight women: 46.9 million

Number of obese adults: 39.8 million

Number of obese men: 16.8 million

Number of obese women: 23 million

% of obese persons in U.S. population: 22.3%

% increase in obesity prevalence between 1991 and 20001: 61%

% of overweight African-American women: 65.8%

% of overweight African-American men: 56.5%

% of overweight Mexican-American women: 65.9%

% of overweight Mexican-American men: 63.9%

Exercise and Dieting

% of American adults who meet recommended physical activity guidelines: 22%

% of American adults who say they never engage in physical activity during their leisure time2: 40%

% of women at any given time trying to lose weight3 33% to 40%

% of men at any given time trying to lose weight3: 20% to 24%

Amount of money Americans spend annually on weight-loss products and services: $33 billion

Mortality and Morbidity

Number of deaths annually attributable to obesity: 280,000

% of those with diabetes who are obese: 46%

% of risk increase for diabetes for each unit of BMI exceeding 22: 25%

Number of annual physician office visits related to obesity: 62.7 million

Number of missed workdays related to obesity each year: 39.3 million

From the fitness industry’s point, as reported in the 6th Annual IDEA Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey (IDEA Fitness Manager, October 2001), 49 percent of health clubs offer weight management programs. However in 1997, 82 percent of facilities offered these programs, a 33 percent drop over the five-year period. While fitness facilities may not be seeing a demand for weight management programs, according to these figures, there certainly is a need.


1. Mokdad, A.H., et al. 2001. The continuing epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the United States. Journal of

the American Medical Association, 286 (10), 1195-1200.

2. National Center for Health Statistics. 1997. National Health Interview Survey. Atlanta: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control.

3. Technology Assessment Conference. 1992. Methods for voluntary weight loss and control. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, Office of Medical Applications of Research.

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