Least and Most Obese Communities in America


Boulder, Colo., continues to have the lowest obesity rate in the nation, at 12.4 percent, whereas nearly 40 percent of the population in the Ohio River metropolitan area of Huntington, WV; Ashland, KY and Ironton, Ohio, is obese. This is according to new research from Gallup and Healthways that looked at the well-being and lives of people throughout America, including the least and most obese big cities and in smaller communities.

Boulder, Colo., has actually had the lowest level of obesity in the country for nearly every year since Gallup and Healthways began measuring in 2008. The entire top 10 among the least obese cities (from least to higher) were Boulder; Naples, Fla.; Fort Collins; Charlottesville, Va. ; Bellingham, Wash.; San Diego; Denver; San Jose; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Barnstable Town, Mass.

Among the most obese communities, from highest levels on down, were Huntington; McCallen, Texas; Haggerstown, Md.; Yakima, Wash.; Little Rock; Charlestown; Clarksville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; Green Bay, Wi.; and Rockford, Ill.

Among large communities with populations above 1 million, the greater Memphis, Tenn., area had the highest obesity rate, with one out of every three adults labeled as obese. They were followed by San Antonio, Texas; Richmond, Va.; New Orleans, La.; Columbus, Ohio, Rochester, NY; Louisville, Ky-Jefferson County, Ind.; Oklahoma City; the Detroit, Mich, area and Cleveland, Ohio.

The least obese communities with over 1 million in population saw the metropolitan Denver and San Diego, Calif., areas tied for the lowest at 19 percent obese. The metropolitan areas that followed were San Jose, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The average obesity rate for all larger communities was 25.7 percent, which is almost two points below the national average. No large community made the top 10 list for highest obesity rates in areas of all sized. These suggests that residents in larger communities are less likely to be obese than those living in smaller ones.

The research results for the least and most obese communities in America show that the areas with the highest levels of obesity are either below the Mason-Dixon line or have had major industries destroyed and seen considerable unemployment. The cities with the lowest obesity rates tend to have large concentrations of well-to-do people. In general, the researchers found that the average obese adult was male, between the ages of 45 to 64, blue collar (if employed), earn less than $36,000 annually and have no high school degree or just a vocational education.

The results are from telephone interviews conducted during 2012 and 2013 as part of the broader Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey. They used a random sample of 531,630 adults living in metropolitan areas in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. At least 300 responses were required per metro area for reporting purposes.

During the 2013 analysis, the researchers also examined Americans’ perceptions of their physical and emotional health, work environment, healthy behaviors, financial security, and access to food, shelter and healthcare to create a composite well-being rank for each area. All the findings have not been published yet, but some that have show job satisfaction has dropped considerably across the country. So have dental visits. Both of those probably reflect the poor economy in 2012 and 2013.

In other behaviors, Utah has the fewest smokers, New Jersey has the lowest depression levels, and the people of Vermont consume the most produce. Curiously, none of those states had communities that made the list of least and most obese in America.

By Dyanne Weiss

USA Today
National Journal

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