Our Future Looks Fat: Study Predicts Nearly Half the U.S. Population Will be Obese by 2030

Photo: Tobyotter

The results of a new study by public health researchers at Columbia University and Oxford University forecasts that by 2030, there will be an additional 65 million obese adults living in the U. S., and 11 million more in the U.K. That would bring the U.S. obese population up from 99 million to 164 million, roughly half the population.

The findings suggest that as a result, medical costs associated with the treatment of preventable diseases (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer) will increase somewhere between $48 billion and $66 billion per year, in the U.S. alone

The study, published in the Aug. 27 issue of The Lancet, was led by Y. Claire Wang of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. From Slash Food comes this map of obesity rates by state. Currently, roughly one-third of Americans are obese. Any guesses as to what this map will look like in 2030?

Ans here are some of the study’s depressing highlights:

In the U.S.:

  • Obesity prevalence among men would rise from 32% in 2008 to approximately 50% and from 35% to between 45% and 52% among women
  • 7.8 million extra cases of diabetes
  • 6.8 million more cases of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • 539,000 additional cases of cancer
  • Annual spending on obesity-related diseases would rise by 13-16%, leading to 2.6% increase in national health spending

In the U.K.:

  • Prevalence of obesity among men would increase from 26% to between 41 — 48%, and among women from 26% to 35-43%.
  • 668,000 more cases of diabetes
  • 461,000 more cases of heart disease and stroke
  • 139,000 additional cases of cancer
  • In the U.K., annual spending on obesity-related health would increase even more rapidly than in the U.S. due to its older population, rising 25%.

Now, maybe I’m being naive, but I refuse to believe that within 20 years, half the U.S. population will be obese. Here’s to hoping this is one prediction that doesn’t come true.

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  1. Caleb b says:

    So if I want to look thin, move to MIssissippi, got it.

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  2. Eric M. Jones. says:

    “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” —Mark Twain.

    The study is based on NO substantial new developments in anti-obesity medications or treatments. Since several meds are currently in testing, I doubt this is realistic.

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  3. Fatboy 2011 says:

    Simple solution used by Congress for decades. Change the standards for obesity.

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  4. Nate Vack says:

    I think XKCD covered this one pretty well:


    The title text: “By the third trimester, there will be hundreds of babies inside you.”

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  5. Publius says:

    You state: “Currently, roughly one-third of Americans are obese.” 1/3 = 33.3%

    BUT, your map does NOT show a SINGLE state that has an obesity rate over 33.3%.

    Please explain this Freakomatics!

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    • Kevin says:

      That map is “Percentage of Obese Adult Population”. With the way kids (non-adults not covered by the map) are beginning to look I would not doubt that their percentage ups the level of American Obesity to 33%.

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  6. Nosybear says:

    Since most trends are self-limiting (that is, there is a maximum that is never reached but approached determined by the system itself), how do we know that 50% is that limit? Did the study simply extrapolate past growth? I, too, have trouble believing that 50% of the population will be obese but then I do live in Colorado.

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  7. Martin says:

    Not to worry at all. At some point NIH moves the obesity treshhold from BMI 30 to BMI 40 and we’re all slim and fit again! Voila!

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    • Longtime Lurker says:

      Actually, that’s how the CDC created the “epidemic” in the first place — by changing what BMI was considered overweight and what was considered obese:

      “When the CDC changed the definition in 1997, 30 million Americans who had been of normal weight now found themselves to be obese, all without gaining a pound.”


      Ironically, those who are slightly “overweight” actually have the best mortality rates. By all logical standards, the weight group with the best mortality rates should be defined as ideal or at least “normal weight”, but then in our society we care more about appearance than actual health. I should know — I’m technically “overweight” with a BMI of 26, but work out 5+ times a week, have a body fat percentage or 25% (I’m a woman so that’s perfectly fine) and my blood pressure, heart, and cholesterol are all great. But according to my health plan, I’m overweight and a worse risk than the naturally skinny girl in the office next to me who spends her life on the sofa and eats junk food all the time.

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  8. James says:

    I do wish you folks would learn the proper use of the plural pronouns. Your future may be fat, mine won’t be.

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