The fat hillbilly sitting on the front porch with a shotgun across his lap is becoming less funny as rural obesity continues to climb. With rural obesity comes the growing costs of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes as well as the effects of comorbidities.
As the US sick care system grows in its understanding of the impact of lifestyle, so too must we find new ways to encourage, reimburse, and incent new lifestyle behaviors. Ironically, for many in rural America this probably means returning to the “old ways” of real food and more time outdoors instead of the modern lifestyle with processed foods and TV time.
In rural communities, severe obesity rates more than tripled for men and more than doubled for women during the study period, while climbing 29 percent among young people. Obesity rates in rural areas, meanwhile, rose about 9 percent among children and teens and about 36 percent for adults.
“A major finding that surprised us was this difference between obesity and severe obesity,” said Cynthia Ogden of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hyattsville, Maryland.
“Severe obesity affects quality of life and has serious health risks,” including an increased risk of premature death and several cancers, Ogden, lead author of the youth study and senior author of the adult study, said by email.
About 10 percent of rural men had severe obesity in rural communities by the end of the study period, compared with 4 percent of urban men, the adult study found. Almost 14 percent of rural women had severe obesity, compared with 8 percent of urban women.
Differences in education levels, smoking status, age, and racial demographics in rural versus urban communities didn’t appear to explain the different rates of obesity and severe obesity among adults.