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Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2015–2016

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by Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H., Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H., and Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys

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Results from the 2015–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 39.8% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over have obesity, including 7.6% with severe obesity, and another 31.8% are overweight. Body mass index (BMI), expressed as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2), is commonly used to classify overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9), obesity (BMI at or above 30.0), and severe obesity (BMI at or above 40.0).

Age-adjusted trends in overweight, obesity, and severe obesity prevalence from 1960–1962 through 2015–2016 are shown in Table 1. Because surveys before 1988 did not include persons over age 74, Table 1 shows the prevalence for adults aged 20 and over since 1988, and for adults aged 20–74 for all survey periods dating to 1960. The age-adjusted sex-specific trends of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults aged 20–74 from 1960–1962 through 2015–2016 are shown in the FigureTable 2 contains the prevalence of obesity by age for men and women since 1988–1994, and Table 3 contains the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity by race and Hispanic origin for men and women since 1988–1994.

The prevalence of obesity as measured by BMI among non-Hispanic Asian adults was much lower than that reported for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults. Although BMI is widely used as a measure of body fat, at a given BMI level, body fat may vary by sex, age, and race and Hispanic origin. In particular, research suggests that Asian persons may have more body fat than white persons, especially at lower BMIs, and that health risks may begin at a lower BMI among Asian persons compared with others.

NHANES, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, is a stratified, multistage probability sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States. The survey began oversampling non-Hispanic Asian persons for 2011–2012 and the total Hispanic population as of 2007–2008. Beginning with 2007–2008, Mexican-American persons are no longer oversampled but are included in the oversampled total Hispanic population.

A household interview and a physical examination are conducted for each survey participant. During the physical examination, conducted in a mobile examination center, height and weight are measured as part of a comprehensive set of body measurements. These measurements are taken by trained health technicians, using standardized measuring procedures and equipment. Observations for pregnant women and for persons missing a valid height or weight measurement are not included in the data analysis.

Visit the NHANES website for additional information on methods.

 

 

Figure

Figure. Trends in adult overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among men and women aged 20–74: United States, 1960–1962 through 2015–2016

Image of chart showing adult obesity trends

NOTES: Age-adjusted by the direct method to the year 2000 U.S. Census Bureau estimates using age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60–74. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2 or greater but less than 30 kg/m2; obesity is BMI greater than or equal to 30; and extreme obesity is BMI greater than or equal to 40. Pregnant females were excluded from the analysis.
SOURCES: NCHS, National Health Examination Survey and National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

 

Tables

Table 1. Age-adjusted prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults, by sex: United States, 1960–1962 through 2015–2016

Age group Survey period Sample (n) Percent (standard error)
All Men Women
Overweight Obesity Severe obesity Overweight Obesity Severe obesity Overweight Obesity Severe obesity
20 and over1 1988–1994 16,235 33.1 (0.6) 22.9 (0.7) 2.8 (0.2) 40.7 (0.8) 20.2 (0.7) 1.7 (0.3) 25.9 (0.7) 25.4 (0.9) 3.9 (0.3)
1999–2000 4,117 34.0 (1.0) 30.5 (1.5) 4.7 (0.6) 39.7 (1.4) 27.5 (1.5) 3.1 (0.7) 28.6 (1.6) 33.4 (1.7) 6.2 (0.7)
2001–2002 4,413 35.1 (1.1) 30.5 (1.1) 5.1 (0.5) 42.2 (1.3) 27.7 (1.0) 3.6 (0.6) 28.2 (1.7) 33.2 (1.5) 6.5 (0.6)
2003–2004 4,431 34.1 (1.1) 32.2 (1.2) 4.8 (0.6) 39.7 (1.5) 31.1 (1.3) 2.8 (0.4) 28.6 (1.2) 33.2 (1.7) 6.9 (0.9)
2005–2006 4,356 32.6 (0.8) 34.3 (1.4) 5.9 (0.5) 39.9 (1.3) 33.3 (2.0) 4.2 (0.5) 25.5 (1.2) 35.3 (1.4) 7.4 (0.7)
2007–2008 5,550 34.3 (0.8) 33.7 (1.1) 5.7 (0.4) 40.1 (1.4) 32.2 (1.4) 4.2 (0.5) 28.6 (1.2) 35.4 (1.1) 7.3 (0.6)
2009–2010 5,926 33.0 (1.0) 35.7 (0.9) 6.3 (0.2) 38.4 (1.1) 35.5 (1.7) 4.4 (0.3) 27.9 (1.4) 35.8 (0.9) 8.1 (0.5)
2011–2012 5,181 33.6 (1.3) 34.9 (1.4) 6.4 (0.6) 37.8 (1.5) 33.5 (1.4) 4.4 (0.9) 29.7 (1.8) 36.1 (1.7) 8.3 (0.7)
2013–2014 5,455 32.5 (0.8) 37.7 (0.9) 7.7 (0.7) 38.7 (1.2) 35.0 (1.1) 5.5 (0.6) 26.5 (0.8) 40.4 (1.3) 9.9 (0.9)
2015–2016 5,337 31.6 (0.6) 39.6 (1.6) 7.7 (0.6) 36.5 (1.6) 37.9 (2.3) 5.6 (0.7) 26.9 (1.0) 41.1 (1.6) 9.7 (0.7)
20–742 1960–1962 6,126 31.5 (0.5) 13.4 (0.5) 0.9 (0.1) 38.7 (0.7) 10.7 (0.7) *0.3 (0.1) 24.7 (0.8) 15.8 (0.6) 1.4 (0.2)
1971–1974 12,911 32.7 (0.6) 14.5 (0.4) 1.3 (0.2) 41.7 (1.1) 12.1 (0.6) 0.6 (0.2) 24.3 (0.7) 16.6 (0.6) 2.0 (0.3)
1976–1980 11,765 32.1 (0.6) 15.0 (0.4) 1.4 (0.1) 39.9 (0.8) 12.7 (0.6) 0.4 (0.1) 24.9 (0.8) 17.0 (0.6) 2.2 (0.3)
1988–1994 14,319 32.6 (0.6) 23.2 (0.7) 3.0 (0.3) 40.3 (0.8) 20.5 (0.7) 1.8 (0.3) 25.1 (0.8) 25.9 (1.0) 4.1 (0.3)
1999–2000 3,603 33.6 (1.1) 30.9 (1.6) 5.0 (0.6) 39.2 (1.5) 27.7 (1.6) 3.3 (0.7) 28.0 (1.7) 34.0 (1.8) 6.6 (0.8)
2001–2002 3,916 34.4 (1.1) 31.2 (1.1) 5.4 (0.5) 41.5 (1.4) 28.3 (1.1) 3.9 (0.7) 27.3 (1.6) 34.1 (1.6) 6.8 (0.6)
2003–2004 3,756 33.4 (1.2) 32.9 (1.3) 5.1 (0.6) 39.4 (1.5) 31.7 (1.4) 3.0 (0.4) 27.3 (1.3) 34.0 (1.9) 7.3 (1.0)
2005–2006 3,835 32.2 (0.9) 35.1 (1.5) 6.2 (0.5) 39.7 (1.3) 33.8 (2.2) 4.3 (0.5) 24.7 (1.3) 36.3 (1.5) 7.9 (0.8)
2007–2008 4,876 33.6 (0.8) 34.3 (1.2) 6.0 (0.4) 39.4 (1.4) 32.5 (1.5) 4.4 (0.5) 27.9 (1.2) 36.2 (1.3) 7.6 (0.6)
2009–2010 5,279 32.7 (1.0) 36.1 (0.9) 6.6 (0.2) 38.0 (1.2) 35.9 (1.7) 4.6 (0.4) 27.5 (1.5) 36.1 (0.9) 8.5 (0.5)
2011–2012 4,674 33.3 (1.4) 35.3 (1.4) 6.6 (0.6) 37.3 (1.5) 33.9 (1.5) 4.5 (1.0) 29.5 (2.0) 36.6 (1.6) 8.6 (0.7)
2013–2014 4,940 31.9 (0.8) 38.2 (1.0) 8.1 (0.8) 38.2 (1.3) 35.5 (1.2) 5.7 (0.7) 25.8 (0.9) 41.0 (1.4) 10.5 (1.0)
2015–2016 4,778 31.0 (0.8) 40.0 (1.8) 8.0 (0.6) 35.8 (1.8) 38.3 (2.4) 5.9 (0.8) 26.3 (1.1) 41.6 (1.7) 10.1 (0.7)

1Age adjusted by the direct method to U.S. Census 2000 estimates using age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over. Crude estimates (not age adjusted) for 2015–2016 are 31.8% for overweight, 39.8% for obesity, and 7.6% for severe obesity categories.
2
Age adjusted by the direct method to U.S. Census 2000 estimates using age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60–74. The 1960–1962 National Health Examination Survey (NHANES) included adults aged 18–79, and the 1971–1974 and 1976–1980 NHANES did not include persons over age 74.
NOTES: Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25.0–29.9 kg/m2; obesity is BMI at or above 30.0 kg/m2; and severe obesity is BMI at or above 40.0 kg/m2. Pregnant women are excluded from the analysis.
SOURCES: NCHS, National Health Examination Survey and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 2. Prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by sex and age: United States, 1988–1994 through 2015–2016

Survey period Percent (standard error)
All Men Women
20–39 40–59 60 and over 20–39 40–59 60 and over 20–39 40–59 60 and over
1988–1994  17.7 (0.7)  27.9 (1.1) 23.7 (0.9) 14.8 (0.8) 25.4 (1.2)  21.2 (1.4) 20.7 (1.3) 30.3 (1.5) 25.6 (1.1)
1999–2000 26.0 (1.3) 33.5 (3.0) 33.5 (1.7) 23.7 (1.6) 28.8 (2.9) 31.7 (2.2) 28.3 (2.0) 37.7 (3.3) 35.0 (2.2)
2001–2002 26.1 (1.4) 33.9 (1.5) 32.8 (1.6) 22.3 (1.5) 32.2 (1.7) 29.9 (2.0) 29.8 (2.1) 35.7 (2.1) 35.0 (2.0)
2003–2004 28.5 (1.5) 36.8 (1.8) 31.0 (1.3) 28.0 (2.2) 34.8 (2.5) 30.4 (1.9) 28.9 (2.3) 38.8 (2.7) 31.5 (1.7)
2005–2006 29.1 (2.0) 40.4 (2.0) 33.4 (1.1) 27.9 (2.8) 39.6 (2.9) 32.2 (2.1) 30.5 (2.3) 41.1 (2.3) 34.4 (2.3)
2007–2008 30.7 (2.0) 36.2 (1.7) 35.1 (1.0) 27.4 (1.9) 34.2 (2.3) 37.0 (2.0) 34.0 (2.5) 38.1 (2.2) 33.5 (1.7)
2009–2010 32.6 (1.7) 36.6 (1.0) 39.7 (1.5) 33.2 (2.7) 37.2 (1.8) 36.6 (2.4) 31.9 (1.6) 36.0 (1.7) 42.3 (1.9)
2011–2012 30.3 (1.9) 39.5 (1.6) 35.4 (2.0) 29.0 (2.6) 39.4 (1.6) 32.0 (2.2) 31.8 (1.7) 39.5 (2.2) 38.1 (2.9)
2013–2014 34.3 (1.5) 41.0 (2.1) 38.5 (1.6) 31.6 (2.1) 37.2 (2.4) 37.5 (3.0) 37.0 (1.3) 44.6 (2.6) 39.4 (1.9)
2015–2016 35.7 (1.9) 42.8 (2.6) 41.0 (1.9) 34.8 (2.8) 40.8 (2.9) 38.5 (1.8) 36.5 (1.6) 44.7 (3.1) 43.1 (2.8)

NOTES: Obesity is body mass index at or above 30.0 kg/m2. Pregnant women are excluded from the analysis.
SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 3. Age-adjusted prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by sex and race and Hispanic origin: United States, 1988–1994 through 2015–2016

Survey period Percent (standard error)
Men Women
Non-Hispanic Hispanic Mexican American Non-Hispanic Hispanic Mexican American
white black Asian white black Asian
1988–1994 20.3 (0.9) 21.1 (1.0) – – – – – – 23.9 (1.0) 22.9 (1.1) 38.4 (1.4) – – – – – – 35.4 (1.4)
1999–2000 27.3 (1.8) 27.9 (1.6) – – – – – – 28.9 (1.9) 30.1 (2.1) 49.5 (3.0) – – – – – – 39.5 (3.9)
2001–2002 29.0 (1.3) 27.9 (2.0) – – – – – – 25.9 (2.0) 31.2 (1.6) 48.2 (2.7) – – – – – – 37.0 (3.2)
2003–2004 31.1 (1.5) 34.0 (3.5) – – – – – – 31.6 (2.5) 30.2 (2.1) 53.9 (3.0) – – – – – – 42.3 (2.7)
2005–2006 33.0 (2.2) 37.0 (2.4) – – – – – – 27.0 (1.9) 32.9 (1.8) 52.9 (2.1) – – – – – – 42.1 (2.8)
2007–2008 31.9 (1.9) 37.2 (2.5) – – – 34.2 (3.0) 35.8 (3.5) 33.0 (1.8) 49.4 (2.0) – – – 43.0 (2.6) 45.1 (3.1)
2009–2010 36.2 (2.1) 38.8 (2.3) – – – 37.0 (2.2) 38.6 (2.4) 32.2 (1.4) 58.5 (2.8) – – – 41.4 (2.0) 44.9 (1.6)
2011–2012 32.4 (1.3) 37.1 (1.9) 10.0 (1.6) 40.1 (2.1) 44.0 (2.6) 32.8 (2.7) 56.6 (2.1) 11.4 (2.2) 44.4 (2.1) 49.2 (3.4)
2013–2014 34.7 (1.6) 38.0 (2.5) 12.6 (1.8) 37.9 (2.8) 42.2 (2.5) 38.2 (1.6) 57.2 (1.7) 12.4 (2.1) 46.9 (2.7) 50.9 (3.1)
2015–2016 37.9 (2.7) 36.9 (2.5) 10.1 (1.3) 43.1 (2.9) 46.2 (2.6) 38.0 (1.9) 54.8 (2.3) 14.8 (1.3) 50.6 (2.1) 52.3 (2.1)

– – – Data not available.
NOTES: Obesity is body mass index at or above 30.0 kg/m2. Data are age adjusted by the direct method to U.S. Census 2000 estimates using age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over. Pregnant women are excluded from the analysis.
SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

 

For more detailed estimates, see:

  • Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2000. JAMA 288(14):1723–7. 2002.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999–2004. JAMA 295(13):1549–55. 2006.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, McDowell MA, Flegal KM. Obesity among adults in the United States—No statistically significant change since 2003–2004 [PDF – 366 KB]. NCHS Data Brief, no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007.
  • Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Curtin LR. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008. JAMA 303(3):235–41. 2010.
  • Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999–2010. JAMA 307(5):491–7. 2012.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011–2012. JAMA 311(8):806–14. 2014.
  • Flegal KM, Kruszon-Moran D, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Ogden CL. Trends in obesity among adults in the United States, 2005 to 2014. JAMA 315(21):2284–91. 2016.
  • Hales CM, Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Freedman DS, Ogden CL. Trends in obesity and severe obesity prevalence in US youth and adults by sex and age, 2007–2008 to 2015–2016. JAMA 319(16):1723–5. 2018.

 

This Health E-Stat supersedes the earlier version, “Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults Aged 20 and Over: United States, 1960–1962 Through 2013–2014”.

  • Page last reviewed: September 5, 2018
  • Page last updated: September 5, 2018
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