Obesity by race

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Obesity by race

Obesity by race – there has been an alarming increase in the rate of obesity in children and adults since the 1970s.

Even though estimates reveal that the overall obesity rate has declined in some groups, it cannot be denied that obesity is still highly prevalent and among the leading health problems in the US.

Furthermore, it is more worrisome that severe obesity is an increasing issue among children and adults. Significant disparities are found due to gender, race-ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, and geographic regionobesity-by-race

Adult Obesity problem in the US

According to the latest data, nearly 39.6% of adults in the US are obese, while 31.6% are overweight, and 7.7% are severely obese.

It is seen that the obesity rate is high in Hispanic and Black women and Hispanic men.

Furthermore, people in the south and Midwest and Nonmetropolitan countries are more inclined towards obesity. Obesity increases with age.


Racial-Ethnic Disparities

As per recent national data, about 50.6% of Hispanic women and 54.8% of black women are obese. In comparison, around 38% of white women face the issue.

The obesity rate in white men is 37.9% compared to that of Hispanic men, which is 43.1% and Black men, which is 36.9%.

It is also seen that the rate of obesity in Asian men and women is lower compared to that of other racial-ethnic group wherein 14.8% of Asian women are obese and 10.1% Asian men.

You can take a look at the data on adult obesity derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey.

Further analyses reveal that severe obesity is more prevalent among women than men, as nearly 9.9% of women have the problem compared to 5.5% of men. This is particularly true for Black women, where the rate of severe obesity is nearly double to that of white and Hispanic women.


U.S. Age-Adjusted Prevalence of Adult Obesity (NHANES 2015-2016)

  Obesity BMI >/=
30 kg/m2
All Adults39.6%
All Females 41.1%
White (non-Hispanic)38.0%
Black (non-Hispanic)54.8%
Asian (non-Hispanic)14.8%
All Males 37.9%
White (non-Hispanic)37.9%
Black (non-Hispanic)36.9%
Asian (non-Hispanic)10.1%

Source: Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M.D., & Ogden, C. L. (2018). Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960-1962 through 2015-2016. Health E-Stats, September 2018.


Child Obesity in the US

The latest national figures have revealed that around 18.5% of children in the US are obese, while 16.6% are overweight, and 5.6% fall in the category of severe obese.

It is seen that the rate of obesity is higher and increasing in Black and Hispanic children compared to White children. Obesity is also more prevalent in children from rural areas.


Obesity by race: Racial-Ethnic Disparities

As per national data, nearly 13.5% of white girls fall into the category of obesity. In contrast, about 25.1% of black girls and 23.6% of Hispanic girls are obese.

19% of Black boys and 28% of Hispanic boys are obese compared to 14.6% of white boys. The obesity rate is significantly lower in Asian girls and boys.

There is not much data available when it comes to Native American children. However, several studies have revealed that their obesity rate is quite high compared to other racial-ethic groups and the national average.

For instance, as per the estimates of a study, 29.7% of American Indian and Alaska Native children are struggling with obesity.

In the table below, you can find some recent data on obesity among children and adolescents taken from NHANES. 

US Prevalence of Child Obesity (NHANES 2015-2016)

  Obesity BMI >/= 95th percentile
All Children18.5%
2-5 year olds13.9%
6-11 year olds18.4%
12-19 year olds20.6%
All Females
2-19 years old
White (non-Hispanic)13.5%
Black (non-Hispanic)25.1%
Asian (non-Hispanic)10.1%
All Males
2-19 years old
White (non-Hispanic)14.6%
Black (non-Hispanic)19.0%
Asian (non-Hispanic)11.7%

Source: Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M.D., & Ogden, C. L. (2018). Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years: United States, 1963-1965 through 2015-2016. Health E-Stats, September 2018.

Sources: Bullock et al., 2017; Flegal et al., 2016; Fryar et al.., 2018; Hales et al., 2018; Johnson et al., 2015; Lundeen et al., 2018; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2016; and Skinner et al., 2018.

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Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.