Women's Health USA 2007
Photographs of women's faces
Health Status > Health Indicators
Overweight and Obesity

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 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61.5 percent of women and 69.6 percent of men were overweight or obese in 2003-04. Measurements of overweight and obesity are based on Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated using height and weight. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25.029.9, and obese is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or more; a BMI of 18.524.9 is considered normal weight while a BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight.

Since 1960, rates of overweight and obesity among men and women have increased dramatically. In 1960-62, 24.5 percent of women were overweight and 15.7 percent were obese, compared to 27.4 and 34.0 percent, respectively, in 2001-04. This marks an 11.8 percent increase in female overweight and a 116.6 percent increase in female obesity over the past 4 decades. Men saw a smaller increase in rates of overweight (4.4 percent), but a larger increase in rates of obesity (182.2 percent). However, men are more likely to be overweight than women, while the reverse is true for obesity.

Rates of overweight and obesity among women vary by race and ethnicity. In 2003-04, Hispanic women (32.1 percent) were more likely than non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black women to be overweight (28.4 and 26.9 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic Black women were most likely to be obese (53.0 percent), while non-Hispanic White women were least likely to be obese (30.3 percent).

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Overweight and obesity. June 2004. www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity. Viewed 4/16/07.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.