Overweight Americans aren’t shedding pounds, recent poll finds

Nearly eight of 10 U.S. adults are still overweight while about half that – or nearly four of 10 – are considered obese. We have the study's details.

As shocking as it may sound, nearly eight of 10 U.S. adults are overweight while about half that – or nearly four of 10 – are considered obese.

Obesity is defined as 20 percent or more overweight.

The figures, from a Harris Poll released May 25, 2011, found that not much has changed lately either. The numbers of overweight adults is consistent with a five-year average of Harris results (2006-2010).

The biggest difference is in the change long-term, Harris noted, since year-to-year changes can be small enough to not attract attention, plus small statistical error can affect such narrow comparisons.

Twenty-eight years ago, when Harris first asked these questions in 1983, 15 percent of adults were obese, compared to today's figure of 38 percent (see chart, below).

The April 11 Harris Poll was conducted by telephone and online, within the United States from April 11-18, 2011 among a nationwide cross section of 1,987 adults (ages 18 and older), with determinations using the MetLife tables of height, weight and bodyframe.


For comparison, a European Union study from late 2010 reported that, although climbing, the rate of obesity in Europe is still significantly below that of the United States but is nearly double what it was two decades ago at 50 percent. Narly 16 percent are classified as obese.

The figures change from Harris’ in different cases:

  • Using the newer “body mass index” based on self-reported height and weight, fewer U.S. adults are overweight (63 percent compared to 78 percent) or obese (28 percent compared to 38 percent)
  • A Gallup Poll found that U.S. adults who live in metropolitan areas might be less inclined toward obesity. Of those surveyed in 2010 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, about one in five, or 20 percent, were obese in 174 of the 188 metro areas surveyed. However, some areas are better or worse. For example, 40 percent of people rank as obese in the Evansville, IN-KY area, while Boulder, Colo., wins as the most fit with only 12.9 percent.

In November 2010, we reported the CDC said it didni't expect obesity to plateau for another four decades and projected that number to reach 42 percent. Click here to read that story.

--Therese Iknoian


Did you hear?... American holiday spending poll

Americans plan to drop nearly the same amount of cash this year in holiday spending as they did last year, according to a poll just out. The average projected spending for this year is $794, down just $3 from last year, reported a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last week. ...read more