The Lamen

Americans struggle with obesity in the post-pandemic era

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

A growing number of Americans are reportedly suffering from obesity in the post-pandemic era — failing to return to healthy eating habits.

Photo: Generated via Bing AI

Published on Dec 18, 2023

The pandemic shed light upon how too many Americans conveniently fell back onto their couches — many failing to return to the gym and a healthy eating routine.

Compared to pre-pandemic times, more Americans are suffering from poor physical and mental health, according to a recent Gallup survey.

  • 38.4 percent of American adults were obese (according to self-reported height and weight) in 2022 — up 6 points from 32.4 percent in 2019.
  • Those aged 45 to 64 reported the biggest increase in obesity rates — up 8.2 percent from 2019.
  • The respondents also experienced a fall in productivity and perceived physical appearance.

While the survey focuses on adults, American youth also struggle with poor health — with an estimated 19.7 percent of American children and teenagers aged 2-19 being obese.


COVID-19 and obesity had a bidirectional relationship, with obesity also worsening the outcome of coronavirus infection.

  • The pandemic altered people’s eating patterns and reduced physical activity, becoming a major driver of obesity.
  • American adults suffered from increased sedentary behavior, stress, and job troubles — all of which led to diminished eating habits.

Differing opinions attribute the obesity epidemic to the growing popularity of ultra-processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, or a result of biochemical interference — but most agree that it has become a societal challenge.


The Gallup survey estimates obesity using self-reported body mass index (BMI) metrics — a surrogate measure that has caused historical harm.

  • “We vastly underestimate the prevalence of obesity using BMI and there are many people with normal BMI who still have obesity,” Dr. Aayush Visaria told NBC.
  • The American Medical Association adopted a new policy earlier this year that advised that BMI be used in conjunction with other body fat measurements.

As a direct consequence of rising obesity rates, pharmaceutical companies are capitalizing on the explosive demand for new diabetes and weight loss drugs.

“The health effects have practical implications for the U.S. economy… [leading to] greatly enhanced levels of unplanned absenteeism and healthcare utilization (and associated costs),” the report concludes.