In a flurry of recent national studies that looked at obesity, food security and happiness, Alabama didn’t fare so well, ranking eighth highest in the country for obesity, seventh highest in terms of food insecurity and 50th for happiness.
The results of an obesity study by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed a 32.4% obesity rate among adults in the state. First place was a tie between Mississippi and West Virginia, each with a rate of 35.1%. In last place, with an average obesity rate of 21.3%, was Colorado.
Officials from the study point to one particular issue leading to high obesity levels. Many experts believe that healthy habits are not being taught early enough, making it harder for children and adolescents to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they get older. Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, believes that in order to combat obesity in adults, the importance of physical activity and eating healthy needs to be instilled in children at an earlier age. It is also recommended by the U.S. Department of Health that adults partake in at least 150 minutes of exercise every week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also recently released a study ranking states on food security. The results showed that between 2011 and 2013 in Alabama, 16.7% of households had trouble putting food on the table at some point in the course of a year. This was higher the national average of 14.6% during the same period of time.
While the two studies may not seem related, Don Williamson, an Alabama State Health Officer, suggested that the two issues at hand were one in the same. Part of the problem adding to Alabama’s obesity epidemic, as well as in states across the country, is that healthy food is generally more expensive than foods that are high in fat and calories. At the same time, healthy foods are less available in stores throughout low-income areas, forcing these families on a tight budget to purchase cheaper, less-healthy food.
As far as happiness goes, a study by the social network WalletHub found that Alabamians are generally unhappy. According to insurancenewsnet.com, WalletHub surveyed 300,000 in states across the country and the District of Columbia, asking participants one simple question — “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” For residents of Alabama, the most common answer appears to have been “not very,” with the state coming in at number 50 overall.
While the results of the various studies were less than stellar for Alabama, state officials say that new health awareness campaigns and efforts to help low-income families maintain a steady supply of food are in the works to solve these issues.