New York Among Leanest States, but Waistlines Still a Growing Problem

Aug 21, 2013

New York State – and particularly Upstate – has lower obesity rates than just about every other state in the nation.  A new study credits policies and attitudes in New York…but it comes with a caution. 

New York Ranks 47th in adult obesity study...but still almost one-in-four adults seriously overweight.

Trust for America’s Health did the annual report.  Executive Director Jeff Levi says public decisions have helped.

“I think New York has been at the forefront of taking this on as a community health issue, everything from policies around nutrition in the school, increasing physical activity, and really creating that kind of environment.”

New York ranked 47th with 23-and-a-half percent of adults rating as obese…meaning only 3 states are leaner. 

“A relatively good number that has to be put into context.  Compared to 20 years ago, this is more than double the obesity rate.” 

The data was also broken down by age and found many other factors influenced the likelihood a group had weight problems (below). Levi found Baby Boomers more likely to be obese than older AND younger groups.

“Those of us between 45 and 64 have much higher obesity rates: 40 percent in 2 states and 30 percent or higher in 41 states.  You compare that to seniors, those over 65, and the obesity rate only exceeds 30 percent in one state, and for young adults, obesity rates are below 28-percent in every state.”  Levi adds, “as Baby Boomers age onto Medicare, a lot of the health problems associated with obesity will be more evident and will have an impact on Medicare costs.  But also I think something very hopeful, that we have young people that do not have such high obesity rates.  If we can make sure this culture shift takes hold, we can see a much better future.”

The study found Obesity leveling off after years of increases.  Levi hopes that’s an indication that both policies and attitudes are changing from increased attention in recent years.  The study results and recommendations are at


The report includes a growing set of strategies that have improved health– but stresses that they are not yet implemented or funded at a level to reduce obesity trends significantly. Some key recommendations from the report regarding strategies that should be taken to scale include:

  • All food in schools must be healthy;
  • Kids and adults should have access to more opportunities to be physically active on a regular basis;
  • Restaurants should post calorie information on menus;
  • Food and beverage companies should market only their healthiest products to children;
  • The country should invest more in preventing disease to save money on treating it;
  • America’s transportation plans should encourage walking and biking; and
  • Everyone should be able to purchase healthy, affordable foods close to home.


  • Rates vary by region. Of the states with the 20 highest adult obesity rates, only Pennsylvania is not in the South or Midwest. For the first time in eight years, Mississippi no longer has the highest rate—Louisiana at 34.7 percent is the highest, followed closely by Mississippi at 34.6 percent. Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.5 percent.
  • Rates vary by age. Obesity rates for Baby Boomers (45-to 64-year-olds)** have reached 40 percent in two states (Alabama and Louisiana) and are 30 percent or higher in 41 states. By comparison, obesity rates for seniors (65+ years old) exceed 30 percent in only one state (Louisiana). Obesity rates for young adults (18-to 25-year-olds) are below 28 percent in every state.  
  • Rates by gender are now consistent. Ten years ago, there was nearly a 6 percentage point difference between rates for men and women (men: 27.5 percent, women: 33.4 percent), and now rates are nearly the same (men: 35.8 percent, women 35.5 percent). Men’s obesity rates have been climbing faster than women’s for this last decade.
  • Rates of “extreme” obesity have grown dramatically. Rates of adult Americans with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher have grown in the past 30 years from 1.4 percent to 6.3 percent—a 350 percent increase. Among children and teens (2-to 19-year-olds), more than 5.1 percent of males and 4.7 percent of females are now severely obese.
  • Rates vary by education. More than 35 percent of adults ages 26 and older who did not graduate high school are obese, compared with 21.3 percent of those who graduated from college or technical college.
  • Rates vary by income. More than 31 percent of adults ages 18 and older who earn less than $25,000 per year were obese, compared with 25.4 percent of those who earn at least $50,000 per year.