Being overweight or obese increases the risk for numerous ailments, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, and poor reproductive health.1 The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) was used to measure the Body Mass Index (BMI) of a representative sample of the U.S. population. For NHANES, BMI is based on height and weight, as measured by health professionals, and may be more accurate than surveys that rely on self-reporting of these measurements by participants.

In 2003, men of all ages were more likely to be obese than their female counterparts. The highest rate of overweight and obesity among men (73.4 percent) occurred in the 65 to 74 age group; the highest rate among women (67.0 percent) also occurred among those 65 to 74 years of age.

Overall, 27.3 percent of adult women are overweight and 31.6 percent are obese, but these rates vary by race and ethnicity. Hispanic women had the highest rate of overweight (32.7 percent), while Non-Hispanic White women had the lowest rate (26.0 percent). Non-Hispanic Black women had the highest rate of obesity (45.3 percent), followed by Hispanic women (34.5 percent). Overall, Non-Hispanic Black women were the most likely to be overweight or obese (72.6 percent).

Graph: Overweight and Obesity in Adults by Age[d]

Graph: Overweight and Obesity in Women by Race/Ethnicity[d]

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Overweight and obesity. June 2004.