(MEDIA GENERAL) — A new report from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® shows the obesity rate in the United States for adults aged 55 and older is the highest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking and measuring well-being in 2008.
According to the report, the incidence of obesity is at an all-time high of 27.7 percent in 2014, up from 27.1 percent in 2013 and significantly above the 25.5 percent recorded in 2008.
“Obesity rates are highest in Southern and Midwestern states and lowest in Western and Northeastern states, a pattern that has persisted since we began measurement,” the report noted.
With the lowest obesity rate in the nation, Hawaii has fewer than one in five residents who are obese. Montana has followed close behind Hawaii each year, as both states have been ranked in the top 10 for six of the past seven years.
Four other states with consistently low obesity rates include California, Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts. All four ranked among the top 10 since 2008.
On the other end of the obesity spectrum, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the nation, with 35.2 percent in 2014.
Consistently high obesity rates were recorded for West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky – all of which have ranked in the bottom 10 each year since the beginning of the study.
The research most prominently and consistently found lower obesity rates were linked to higher well-being.
“Americans who are not obese are more likely to be thriving and less likely to be suffering than those who are obese across all five elements of well-being – in one’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship with their community and physical health.”
The study also found that non-obese individuals are more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle habits, and they are less likely to experience health complications.
In addition to research findings, the report offered solutions to reduce obesity rates across populations by focusing on sustained weight loss, emphasizing maintenance skills and confidence, and going beyond physical exercise and nutrition to address emotional, social support and environmental influences.