Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's Behind the Rise in Obesity?

The percentage of Americans who are obese has soared over the past 50 years, according to height and weight measurements collected by the federal government. Fully 35 percent of adults aged 20 to 74 were obese in 2011-12, up from just 13 percent  in 1960-62. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30.0 or greater.

This rise in obesity did not occur steadily over the past 50 years. Most of the increase took place between 1976 and 2000, when obesity doubled from 15 to 31 percent. What happened then to cause the increase? Three converging trends may have been at work: the aging of the baby-boom generation into middle-age when people typically put on pounds, the rise of working women and mothers, and the substitution of fast-food meals for home cooking.

Interestingly, the percentage of Americans who are overweight but not obese has barely grown over the years, rising from 31.5 percent in 1960-62 to 33.3 percent in 2011-12. Add the overweight numbers to the obesity figures, and the 69 percent majority of Americans were overweight or obese in 2011-12, up from a 45 percent minority in 1960-62.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity among Adults: United States, 1960-1962 through 2011-2012

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