As Obesity Rates Rise, Fewer Americans Realize They're Overweight

Dec 6, 2016

Credit Gallup/CDC / WaPo/Wonkblog

Almost half of overweight Americans don’t know they’re overweight, reports The Washington Post.

The CDC says more Americans than ever are overweight, with the problem even more pronounced in the heartland. And, according to a new Gallup study, far fewer of them think they’re overweight. Back in 1990 about 56 percent of Americans were found to be overweight. And almost as many—48 percent—considered themselves to have a weight problem.

Today, the percentage of overweight Americans has risen to 70. But only 36 percent consider themselves overweight.

So why is this happening? Yale University's Nicholas Christakis says the widening gap is due to a resetting of norms. He explains that as person's friends gain weight, it changes the person’s idea about what an acceptable body size is. When the majority of one’s friends are overweight, this can result in the person gaining weight without noticing.

This could explain why government programs to fight obesity have met with limited success. People won’t seek help if they don’t realize there’s a problem.