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America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Obesity

More than one in five young adults are obese. Obesity in adults is associated with increased risk for a wide variety of poor health outcomes, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.52 Eating habits and physical activity patterns that contribute to obesity are often established during adolescence and young adulthood.53 In addition to individual factors, such as diet and physical activity, social, economic, and environmental forces may contribute to the high prevalence of obesity.54

Indicator Health2: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who are obese by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1988–2010
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 who are obese by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1988–2010

NOTE: Obesity is defined as body mass index ≥ 30 kilograms per meter squared (kg/m2). From 1988 to 1994, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards were used to classify persons into one of four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. For 1999–2010, the revised 1997 OMB standards were used. Persons could select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Included in the total are racial groups not shown separately. Beginning in 1999, racial categories represent persons reporting only one race. Data from 1999 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Persons of Mexican origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • In 2007–2010, 23 percent of young adults ages 18–24 were obese.
  • Between 1988–1994 and 1999–2002, there was an increase in obesity among young adults but between 1999–2002 and 2007–2010, there was no significant change in obesity in this age group.
  • In 2007–2010, Black, non-Hispanic young adults (31 percent) were more likely to be obese than Mexican-American (24 percent) and White, non-Hispanic (21 percent) young adults.
  • There was no statistical difference in obesity between young adult males and females during 1988–1994, 1999–2002, and 2003–2006. However, in 2007–2010, young adult females (27 percent) were more likely to be obese than young adult males (19 percent).

table icon YAHEALTH2 HTML Table

52 Jensen, M.D., Ryan, D.H., Apovian, C.M., Ard, J.D., Comuzzie, A.G., Donato, K.A., et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the Obesity Society.

53 McCracken, M., Jiles, R., and Blanck, H.D. (2007). Health behaviors of the young adult U.S. population: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2003. Preventing Chronic Disease Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(2),1–15.

54 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. (2010). The Surgeon General's vision for a healthy and fit nation. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General.