Sept. 15, 2021
Minnesota’s obesity rate rose slightly in 2020
Obesity is a known risk factor for COVID-19 and is associated with both physical and mental well-being outcomes
Data released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Minnesota’s adult obesity rate in 2020 was 30.7%, up from 30.1% in 2019. While the increase of 0.6% is not considered significant, it highlights ongoing public health concerns about obesity rates on a state and national level.
Minnesotans who are obese are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and other serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Obesity is also associated with poor physical and mental well-being, making now an important time for Minnesotans to focus on their well-being, being active and eating healthy.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging than ever for Minnesotans and for health professionals to address chronic health concerns such as obesity. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has created high levels of anxiety, stress and feelings of social isolation, which impacts a person’s weight, mental well-being and physical health. The pandemic has also interfered with the ability of Minnesotans to connect with their health care providers to address other health issues.
"Obesity and other chronic health challenges have been a priority for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made progress more difficult,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “Even as we work hard to address the impacts of the pandemic, we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that those other health issues have not gone away. We encourage Minnesotans to safely find ways to work toward a healthy weight by being active, choosing healthy foods and connecting with friends, family and health care providers to come up with a plan to make progress toward greater well-being.”
Poor physical or mental health prevented 41.8% of Minnesotans who are obese from engaging in their usual activities, according to self-reports and analysis of Minnesota’s 2020 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This means Minnesotans who say they are obese were 1.4 times as likely as other Minnesotans to report that poor physical or mental health prevented usual activities for 14 or more days in the past month, according to analysis and the BRFSS survey.
“Turning the tide on obesity will require addressing well-being in all sectors of our communities,” said Commissioner Malcolm. “We also need to acknowledge the existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health, such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure everyone can be as healthy as possible.”
Minnesota’s efforts like the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), #StayConnectedMN, as well as MDH programs focused on mental well-being, resilience learning and suicide prevention are working to support positive well-being in school, workplace, faith communities, health care and community organizations to facilitate communication around mental well-being, strengthen coping skills and encourage reaching to those around us.
CDC released state- and territory-specific data on adult obesity prevalence based on responses from a telephone health survey through BRFSS. MDH uses this data to inform the public about obesity rates in the state, track changes over time and support planning of public health interventions to reduce obesity.
The national adult obesity rate rose to 31.9%, up from 31.4% in 2019. The number of states in which at least 35% of residents are obese has nearly doubled since 2018 – and disparities persist – according to CDC. Minnesota is not included in this group of states, as its obesity prevalence is below 35%.
Note for the media
The use of person-first language (e.g., adults with obesity) is encouraged when discussing topics like obesity and other chronic diseases, as are respectful images. The Obesity Action Coalition has more information – please see the Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesity (PDF).