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Chapter 5. Health and Wellness

Indicator 43. Weight and Obesity

In 2008, young adults were asked about their weight and, based on these reports, about 53 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were at a healthy weight, 26 percent were overweight, 16 percent were obese, and 4 percent were underweight.15 A greater percentage of female than male young adults reported being at a healthy weight in 2008 (56 vs. 50 percent). Among young adults, 56 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds reported being at a healthy weight, compared with 48 percent of 22- to 24-year-olds.

Reports of being at an unhealthy weight varied by race/ethnicity and educational attainment in 2008. Greater percentages of Black (24 percent) and Hispanic (22 percent) young adults in 2008 reported being obese than did White (13 percent) young adults. Hispanic young adults also reported being overweight at a higher rate (33 percent) than Whites (26 percent), Blacks (24 percent), and Asians (21 percent) in the same age group. In addition, a lower percentage of young adults with a bachelor's or higher degree reported being obese (8 percent) than did those who had completed less than a high school diploma (20 percent), completed a high school diploma (18 percent), or attended some college (15 percent).

Looking at differences over time, the total percentage of young adults who reported being at a healthy weight was lower in 2008 than in 1999 (53 vs. 58 percent), whereas the total percentage who reported being obese was higher in 2008 than in 1999 (16 vs. 13 percent). This pattern held for 18- to 21-year-olds as well: the percentage who reported being at a healthy weight decreased from 1999 to 2008 (from 62 to 56 percent), while the percentage who reported being obese increased (from 12 to 17 percent). In addition, the percentage of male young adults who reported being at a healthy weight was lower in 2008 than in 1999 (50 vs. 56 percent). When examining weight categories by race/ethnicity, a lower percentage of Asian young adults reported being at a healthy weight in 2008 than in 1999 (61 vs. 76 percent). In contrast, a greater percentage of Asian young adults reported being overweight in 2008 than in 1999 (21 vs. 6 percent). A similar shift occurred with Hispanic young adults; a smaller percentage reported being at a healthy weight in 2008 than in 1999 (42 vs. 55 percent), while a greater percentage reported being obese (22 vs. 13 percent). In addition, some 24 percent of Black young adults in 2008 reported being obese, an increase from 17 percent in 1999.

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15 The National Health Interview Survey, which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked young adults ages 18 to 24 to report their height and weight. Body mass indices (BMI) were calculated from these self-reports and respondents were sorted into categories of underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese.

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