Current and Future Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in the United States

34 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2007 Last revised: 17 Jan 2014

See all articles by Christopher J. Ruhm

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly since the mid-1970s, following a period of relative stability. This study examines past patterns and projects future prevalence rates of obesity and severe obesity among US adults through 2020. Trends in body mass index (BMI), overweight (BMI 25), obesity (BMI 30), class 2 obesity (BMI 35), class 3 obesity (BMI 40) and class 4 obesity (BMI 45) of 20-74 year olds are obtained using data from the first National Health Examination Survey and the Nutrition Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Quantile regression methods are then used to forecast future prevalence rates through 2020. By that year, 77.6% of men are predicted to be overweight and 40.2% obese, with class 2, 3 and 4 obesity prevalence rates projected at 16.4%, 6.3% and 3.1%. The corresponding forecasts for women are 71.1%, 43.3%, 25.3%, 12.8% and 5.8%. The large growth predicted for severe obesity represents a major public health challenge, given the accompanying high medical expenditures and elevated risk of mortality and morbidity. Combating severe obesity is likely to require strategies targeting the particularly large weight gains of the heaviest individuals.

Suggested Citation

Ruhm, Christopher J., Current and Future Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in the United States (June 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13181, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=994229

Christopher J. Ruhm (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

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