Current Obesity Statistics in the U.S.
In 2003, medical costs related to obesity totaled $92.6 billion, almost ten percent of America's total health costs. Though much of this was covered by insurance, obese people paid 26.1 percent more out-of-pocket medical expenses than thin people. Recent polls have shown that Americans support policy that would raise health insurance rates for obese people, as is the case for smokers. Despite the increased costs, most insurance companies do not charge increased rates for obesity, which many people say would create extra incentive for obese people to lose weight. However, insurance companies also rarely cover obesity-combating programs to the same degree that they cover smoking cessation programs and products.
According to research published in 2007, African American females are the most overweight group of adolescents in the U.S. And a 1999 study showed that, while only 16 percent of the American high school population was found to be overweight, and 10 percent obese, 30 percent believed they were overweight, and 43 percent were actively trying to lose weight. Thirteen percent of students had even fasted (abstained from eating for 24 hours or more) to lose weight or avoid gaining weight, while 5 percent had either induced vomiting or taken laxatives in order to lose weight. These statistics represent both a rising level of obesity and an increasingly unhealthy preoccupation with the dangers of obesity. Many critics of the "epidemic" stance feel that obsession with obesity has contributed to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
The most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that approximately 30 percent of Americans over the age of nineteen are obese, making the United States the most obese developed nation in the world. A 2004 study also reinforced the link between poverty and obesity, finding that obese persons participating in the study were approximately half as wealthy as thin participants.
Data about the deadliness of obesity is continually questioned and examined. An often-cited figure in the obesity discussion says that 112,000 people die each year from obesity-related conditions. In December 2006, New York City's Board of Health took a major step toward the public interest view, when it voted to remove all artificial trans fats from restaurants in the city in an effort to improve the health of citizens and to increase consumer knowledge of food content.
Though there are an estimated 800 million undernourished people in the world, there are approximately 1 billion overweight people. For example, Africa, a historically malnourished continent plagued by famine, has seen a recent rise of obesity, as urbanization has resulted in the increased availability of food and a decreased need to walk as a means of transportation, as well as the rising incidence of television and other sedentary behaviors overtaking active ones.