The percentage of adults who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25. The index is an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. A person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and those with a BMI over 30 are considered obese.
Being overweight or obese puts a person at greater risk for a wide variety of serious health problems. Obesity is recognized as a national problem that has grown tremendously over the last three decades, contributing to increases in medical expenditures for treatment of related diseases.
In 2012, 62% of Essex County residents were considered overweight or obese, up from 57% in 2002. This was a bit higher than the state rate of 59% and about the same as the national rate of 63%. The rate in Essex County has fluctuated since 2002, dipping to a low of 53% in 2005, but hovering near 60% in most years. The rates in the state and nation also increased 4 percentage points from 2002 to 2012.
In 2012, the rate in Essex County was 7 percentage points higher than Middlesex, MA (55%). In 2009 (the most recent year where all comparison counties had data), Lake, IL had the highest rate (63%), followed by Essex County (60%), while both Westchester, NY and Middlesex had a rate of 55%.
Data come from a federal government survey designed to collect scientific data on health risks and behaviors. Respondents were asked for their height and weight for a computation of Body Mass Index.
Beginning in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control made two changes to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System on which this indicator is based. The survey now includes cell-phone users, and a new statistical method is used to weight responses. As a result, changes from 2010 to 2011 may be a result of those technical changes rather than true trends.