Study: More Than Half of Young Adults Overweight or Obese

Study: More Than Half of Young Adults Overweight or Obese mens feet standing on scale (Dreamstime)

By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 06 December 2021 11:49 AM

More than half of young American adults ages 18-25 are either overweight or obese, according to new research conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers analyzed data on a nationally representative sample of 8,015 people in that age group from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been conducted multiple times across the last several decades, starting with the second NHANES done from 1988 to 1994.

They found that the average body mass index, which is "calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared," increased by 4.6 points, from 23.1, which is considered normal weight, to 27.7, which is considered overweight. They also found that the number of overweight young adults has increased from roughly 18% in the late 1970’s to almost 24% in 2018, obesity rates rose from about 6% to almost 33% during that same amount of time, and the percentage of young adults in a weight range considered normal shrank from 69% to 38%.

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that "Across all years, 8015 emerging adults were included. Of these, 3965 were female, 3037 were non-Hispanic Black, and 2386 met criteria for household poverty."

"Given what is known about the increasing prevalence of obesity in both children and adults, we were not surprised by the general trend, however we were surprised by the magnitude of the increase in prevalence and that the mean BMI in this age group now falls in the overweight range," Dr. Alejandra Ellison-Barnes of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, one of the researchers who co-authored the research letter, told MedPage Today.

"Given that emerging adulthood is a period of exploration, change, and transitions that ultimately influences the remainder of an individual's trajectory in adulthood, this may be an ideal time to intervene in the clinical setting to prevent, manage, or reverse obesity to prevent adverse health outcomes in the future," she said.