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Demographics & Statistics Lifestyle Weight and Obesity

Over Half Of Young Adults Are Obese Or Overweight

1 year, 1 month ago

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Posted on Dec 06, 2021, 3 p.m.

More than half (56%) of young American adults (between the ages of 18-25) are either overweight or obese, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data on a nationally representative sample of 8,015 people in that age group from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been conducted multiple times across the last four decades, starting with the second NHANES done from 1988 to 1994.

The team found that the average body mass index or BMI, which is "calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared," increased by 4.6 points, from 23.1 to 27.7, which is considered to be overweight. They also found that the number of overweight young adults increased from 18% in the late 1970s to almost 24% in 2018.

According to the researchers, the biggest increase was in the prevalence of obesity, spiking from 6% to almost 33%, and the percentage of those with a normal BMI dropped from 69% to 38%. Additional findings using NHANES data investigating the larger scope found that 42% of all American adults had obesity between 2017-18 with 9.2% of all adults having severe obesity. 

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that "Across all years, 8015 emerging adults were included. Of these, 3965 were female, 3037 were non-Hispanic Black, and 2386 met criteria for household poverty."

"Given what is known about the increasing prevalence of obesity in both children and adults, we were not surprised by the general trend, however, we were surprised by the magnitude of the increase in prevalence and that the mean BMI in this age group now falls in the overweight range," Dr. Alejandra Ellison-Barnes of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the researchers who co-authored the research letter, told MedPage Today.

"Given that emerging adulthood is a period of exploration, change, and transitions that ultimately influences the remainder of an individual's trajectory in adulthood, this may be an ideal time to intervene in the clinical setting to prevent, manage, or reverse obesity to prevent adverse health outcomes in the future," she said.

Being obese or overweight puts a person at higher risk for several health problems such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters, or take the easy route by letting an online BMI calculator do the work for you, click here to use the one provided by the NIH. 

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