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Current and Future Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in the United States

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  • Christopher J. Ruhm

Abstract

The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly since the mid-1970s, following a period of relative stability. This study examines past patterns and projects future prevalence rates of obesity and severe obesity among US adults through 2020. Trends in body mass index (BMI), overweight (BMI 25), obesity (BMI 30), class 2 obesity (BMI 35), class 3 obesity (BMI 40) and class 4 obesity (BMI 45) of 20-74 year olds are obtained using data from the first National Health Examination Survey and the Nutrition Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Quantile regression methods are then used to forecast future prevalence rates through 2020. By that year, 77.6% of men are predicted to be overweight and 40.2% obese, with class 2, 3 and 4 obesity prevalence rates projected at 16.4%, 6.3% and 3.1%. The corresponding forecasts for women are 71.1%, 43.3%, 25.3%, 12.8% and 5.8%. The large growth predicted for severe obesity represents a major public health challenge, given the accompanying high medical expenditures and elevated risk of mortality and morbidity. Combating severe obesity is likely to require strategies targeting the particularly large weight gains of the heaviest individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher J. Ruhm, 2007. "Current and Future Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in the United States," NBER Working Papers 13181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13181 Note: HC HE PE
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    1. Koenker,Roger, 2005. "Quantile Regression," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521845731, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Lechner, 2008. "Long-Run Labour Market Effects of Individual Sports Activities," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 114, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. John Cranfield & Kris Inwood & Les Oxley & Evan Roberts, 2017. "Long-Run Changes in the Body Mass Index of Adults in Three Food-Abundant Settler Societies: Australia, Canada and New Zealand," Working Papers in Economics 17/15, University of Waikato.
    3. Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2011. "Work out or out of work -- The labor market return to physical fitness and leisure sports activities," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 399-409, June.
    4. Jan Häußler & Nelli Hankonen & Pilvikki Absetz, 2015. "Economic Evaluation of the GOAL Lifestyle Intervention to Prevent Type-2 Diabetes," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2015-02, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    5. Costa-Font, Joan & Fabbri, Daniele & Gil, Joan, 2009. "Decomposing body mass index gaps between Mediterranean countries: A counterfactual quantile regression analysis," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 351-365, December.
    6. Alston, Julian M. & Sumner, Daniel A. & Vosti, Stephen A., 2008. "Farm subsidies and obesity in the United States: National evidence and international comparisons," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 470-479, December.
    7. Giorgio Brunello & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Anna Sanz de Galdeano, 2008. "The Rise in Obesity Across the Atlantic: An Economic Perspective," Working Papers 2008-21, FEDEA.
    8. Baum II, Charles L. & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2009. "Age, socioeconomic status and obesity growth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 635-648, May.
    9. Brunello, Giorgio & Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna, 2008. "The Rise in Obesity across the Atlantic: An Economic Perspective," IZA Discussion Papers 3529, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Francesco Bimbo & Rosaria Viscecchia & Gianluca Nadone, 2013. "L’effetto della "filiera corta" sul livello di obesità in Italia," ECONOMIA AGRO-ALIMENTARE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 15(2), pages 97-110.
    11. Samuel Preston & Andrew Stokes & Neil Mehta & Bochen Cao, 2014. "Projecting the Effect of Changes in Smoking and Obesity on Future Life Expectancy in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(1), pages 27-49, February.
    12. Joan Costa-Font & Daniele Fabbri & Joan Gil, 2008. "Decomposing Cross-Country Gaps in Obesity and Overweight: Does the Social Environment Matter?," Working Papers in Economics 205, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.
    13. Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Goldman, Dana P. & Lakdawalla, Darius N. & Zheng, Yuhui & Gailey, Adam H., 2012. "The value of medical and pharmaceutical interventions for reducing obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 630-643.
    14. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2012. "Understanding overeating and obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 781-796.
    15. Etile, Fabrice, 2014. "Education policies and health inequalities: Evidence from changes in the distribution of Body Mass Index in France, 1981–2003," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 13(C), pages 46-65.
    16. Samuel H. Preston & Andrew Stokes & Neil K. Mehta & Bochen Cao, 2012. "Projecting the Effect of Changes in Smoking and Obesity on Future Life Expectancy in the United States," NBER Working Papers 18407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Goldman, Dana & Lakdawalla, Darius & Gailey, Adam & Zheng, Yuhui, 2011. "Differences in health between Americans and Western Europeans: Effects on longevity and public finance," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 254-263, July.
    18. Kolosnitsyna, Marina & Berdnikova, Arina, 2009. "Overweight: What Are its Costs and What Could Be Done?," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 15(3), pages 72-93.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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