The study, conducted by two RAND researchers, also finds that 3 of every 5 adult Americans are either overweight (36%) or obese (23%).
|60% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
In fact, far more people now are overweight or obese than are, collectively, daily smokers, problem drinkers, and below the federal poverty line.
Sturm and Wells, of Santa Monica, California, USA, analyzed data from a nationally representative, household telephone survey of 9,585 adults. The survey was conducted in 1998.
The survey included questions covering height, weight, income, smoking and drinking habits, and health status.
The researchers used the body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight, to define overweight and obesity.
They measured health status by analyzing responses to questions concerning some 17 major chronic conditions and 12 quality-of-life issues.
The study is likely to reinforce the growing concern that obesity has become epidemic. It also underscores the top priority the Surgeon General is giving this year to developing a national action plan to reduce obesity's prevalence.
"Americans haven't given overweight the same attention as other risks, like smoking, but it is clearly a top health problem, and one that is on the rise in all segments of the population," declare co-authors Roland Sturm, a RAND economist, and Kenneth Wells, a psychiatrist on the RAND staff.
"More effective clinical and public health approaches are urgently needed," they conclude.