Roughly 86% of Americans age 18 and older may be overweight or obese by 2030, and related health care costs would double every decade and could reach $956.9 billion in 2030—1 of every 6 health care dollars spent—according to a new study published online by the journal Obesity on July 24.

The study is based on several large, national survey data sets collected over the past 3 decades, including those collected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overweight is defined as having a Body Mass Index of 25 to 29.9.

The study was authored in part by Lan Liang, PhD, with the federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and led by Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, associate professor of International Health and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to the researchers, who also included coauthors May Beydoun, MD, and Benjamin Caballero, MD, from Johns Hopkins and Shiriki Kumanyika from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, half of US adults, as a whole, will become obese, as will 97% of black women and 91% of Mexican-American men by 2030.

The authors also estimate that by 2022, some 80% of adults may be overweight or obese, and 100% could be by 2048. But the prevalence will reach 100% in black women by 2034.

Nearly one third of all US children and adolescents could become obese (body mass index is greater than the 95th percentile) by 2034, and the prevalence could increase to half by 2070. Black girls and Mexican-American boys are especially vulnerable—four in 10 may become overweight or obese by 2030, and half by 2050.

Obesity and overweight are especially worrisome because of their impact on quality of life, premature death, and health care, as well as associated costs. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many health problems including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, breast cancer and certain other types of cancer. If the rise in current rates of overweight and obesity continue, as most experts believe they will, future adults may have shorter life-spans than the current generation.

Liang, Caballero, and Kumanyika jointly authored the study “Will All Americans Become Overweight or Obese? Estimating the Progression and Cost of the U.S. Obesity Epidemic.”

[Source: AHRQ]