People who are entering middle age, have completed only up to a high school education, or are black are more closely linked to obesity, according to a new analysis. Of the 25 factors considered, race, age, and education were more tightly correlated to excess weight than exercise or healthy eating.

The Gallup Wellbeing analysis found that an individual's BMI is lowest when he or she is between 18 and 24 years old (24.0 BMI) but peaks when people turn 55 years old (28.5 BMI). After that, the BMI begins to decline steadily. People who were entering their 90s had the lowest BMI scores of all groups analyzed. 

By race, blacks have the highest BMI score, at 28.2, among any group in the U.S., while Asians have the lowest score at 25.1. According to the analysis, the weight results are likely associated with social and cultural environments and genetics.

Those with the lowest BMI scores:

  • Young people;
  • Very old people;
  • Asians;
  • Those who had completed postgraduate education;
  • Women;
  • Those who exercise three times a week or more.

Gallup interviewed more than 850,000 people between Jan. 1 and May 31 and found that being a man, having a lower level of education, not smoking, and not exercising were also strongly related to being overweight.

The Gallup analysis took into account predictors such as age, race, smoking, and not having enough money for food, visiting the dentist regularly, marital status, and sadness, among factors. 

This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.

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