Adult Obesity Rates Increased During First Year of Pandemic

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New data from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows that adult obesity increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Broad efforts to contain COVID-19 included travel, work, and social restrictions. Such behavioral adjustments disrupted the dietary and activity patterns of U.S. adults.

The percentage of adults with obesity was 40.7 percent in early 2020. One year later, the rate grew by 1.8 percentage points to 42.5 percent. There was not an immediate, substantial increase when the pandemic began. Rather, the obesity rate was statistically indistinguishable from the pre-pandemic prevalence during the first three months of the pandemic, March–May 2020, at 40.8 percent. The next three time periods saw statistically significant increases relative to the baseline pre-pandemic period.

The total obesity rate increase from March 2020 to March 2021 was more than triple the average yearly growth rate of 0.5 percentage points in the preceding decade, 2011–2019.

From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.

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Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.