Overweight and Obesity in Utah

Too many Utahns, including children and adolescents, are at an unhealthy weight. Unhealthy weight is generally categorized into (1) overweight and (2) obesity. Overweight generally means that a person weighs more than optimal but not enough to be considered obese. Being obese usually means that a person is severely overweight.

Obesity can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and other serious health conditions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity). Obesity may be caused by certain underlying health conditions, but often it is related to poor diet (e.g., high fat, high sugar) and lack of physical activity. Disparities in environments may also contribute to the risk of obesity, such as low access to healthy food choices and lack of safe places to exercise.

Here are the facts:

  • More than half (60.4%) of Utah adults are overweight or obese (Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System [BRFSS] 2016).
  • The percentage of adults who are at an unhealthy weight (overweight or obese) has increased about 4% since 2009 (Utah BRFSS 2009, 2016).
  • About 1.3 million adults in Utah are overweight or obese (BRFSS 2016; National Center for Health Statistics 2015).
  • Significantly, more men are overweight or obese than women (67.3% and 52.8%, respectively; BRFSS 2016).
  • About one in four Utah adults are obese (25.3%; BRFSS 2016).
  • About one in five (20.3%) Utah women who delivered a baby in 2015 were obese prior to becoming pregnant (Utah Birth Certificate Database 2015).
  • More than one in five (21.5%) elementary-age Utah children are at an unhealthy weight (Utah Child Height and Weight Study 2016).
  • More than one in ten (11.0%) high-school age Utah children are overweight and about one in 16 (6.4%) is obese (Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2013).
  • CDC 2016 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps


Body Mass Index is a measure of weight divided by height, and is considered a standard for defining overweight or obese for adults aged 20 and over. Overweight is defined as a body mass index between 25 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2. A body mass index of 30 or higher is considered obese. The standard version for calculating body mass index is weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in)2 and multiplying by 703. The formula is weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703.

Calculating Body Mass Index for children is more complex than it is for adults. In addition to height, Body Mass Index for children ages 2 to 19 take age and sex into account.