diabetes workplace wellness

Study: Increasing U.S. Obesity Rates Remains an Increasing Problem

U.S. obesity rates are increasing again, putting new urgency into the important efforts of well-run workplace wellness programs and other population health approaches.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study titled “Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Prevalence in US Youth and Adults by Sex and Age, 2007-2008 to 2015-2016.”

The approach: “Obesity prevalence has been increasing since the 1980s among adults, but among youth, prevalence plateaued between 2005-2006 and 2013-2014. We analyzed trends in obesity prevalence among US youth and adults between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016 in order to determine recent changes.”

One decade ago, 5.7 percent of American adults were severely obese and 33.7 percent were obese. Today the study notes that 7.7 percent of Americans are severely obese and 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese.

For the survey, “among adults aged 20 years and older, obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or more and severe obesity was defined as a BMI of 40 or more.”

Action Needed, Not Words

The study gives credence to the approach that a well-run workplace wellness program may take: Talking about obesity may not be enough; action matters.

The New York Times reports that “public health experts said that they were alarmed by the continuing rise in obesity among adults and by the fact that efforts to educate people about the health risks of a poor diet do not seem to be working.”

 Dr. James Krieger, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Washington and executive director of Healthy Food America told the NYT: “Most people know that being overweight or obese is unhealthy, and if you eat too much that contributes to being overweight. But just telling people there’s a problem doesn’t solve it.”

In addition to increased health concerns, obesity issues also drive up health costs.

We previously reported on a new Cornell University study published in Science News that notes: “Obesity drives U.S. health care costs up by 29 percent, varies by state.”

Said John Cawley, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University: “We have, for the first time, estimated the percentage of health care spending that is devoted to obesity, using microdata for each state.”