1976 to 2018 Saw Rise in Obesity in Young Adults

Prevalence of obesity in those aged 18 to 25 years increased to 32.7 percent in 2017 to 2018

obese obesity overweight
Adobe Stock

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- There was a significant increase in the prevalence of obesity among U.S. emerging adults (ages 18 to 25 years) from 1976 to 2018, according to a research letter published in the Nov. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alejandra Ellison-Barnes, M.D., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1976 to 1980, 1988 to 1994, and the continuous cycles from 1999 through 2018) to examine changes in obesity prevalence nationally among 8,015 U.S. emerging adults.

The researchers found that between 1976 and 2018, mean body mass index increased from 23.1 in 1976 to 1980 to 27.7 in 2017 to 2018. The prevalence of obesity increased from 6.2 percent in 1976 to 1980 to 32.7 percent in 2017 to 2018, whereas normal weight decreased from 68.7 to 37.5 percent. Using just the continuous cycles (1999 to 2018) for sensitivity analyses yielded similar results.

"Emerging adulthood may be a key period for preventing and treating obesity given that habits formed during this period often persist through the remainder of the life course," the authors write. "There is an urgent need for research on risk factors contributing to obesity during this developmental stage to inform the design of interventions as well as policies aimed at prevention."

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Abstract/Full Text

Physician's Briefing