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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Obesity in America Has Doubled Over the Past Two Decades

In a recent government study, 31 percent, or nearly 59 million, of all American adults were classified as obese. This figure has doubled over the past two decades. A 1980 study found that only 15 percent of adults were obese. This figure rose to 23 percent in a 1994 study. The results in this current study contrast sharply with the 19.8 percent that was estimated in a 2000 survey. This study is considered to be more accurate because it was based upon actual body measurements, whereas the 2000 survey was based upon data that was self-reported by the subjects. This indicates that people have a tendency to underestimate their weights. The study also determined that two-thirds of all adults are classified as being overweight. The current study was based on a nationally representative survey of 4,115 adults ages 20 through 74.

This study also measured 4,722 children from birth through age 19. It was found that 15 percent of youngsters ages 6 to 19 were seriously overweight. That is nearly 9 million youths and triple the number in a similar assessment from 1980. Even toddlers in the youth survey were affected, with more than 10 percent of children ages two through five found to be seriously overweight. This figure compares with only 7.2 percent in the 1994 survey. This rising trend is particularly troublesome because overweight children have a difficult time overcoming their battle with weight and will usually become overweight adults.

Obesity is a tremendous national health concern because it increases the risk for a number of serious ailments, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus and some types of cancer. In this study, body composition was reported by the body-mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of weight relative to height. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or above. The overweight classification is defined as having a BMI of between 25 and 30. These National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys have been conducted periodically over the past several years.


Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Ogden, C. L., & Johnson, C. L. (2002). Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, (14), 1723-1727.