Weight Tops Smoking Among U.S. Health Concerns

As smoking rates decline and obesity rates rise, national attention — and concern — has made a similar shift, the latest Gallup poll shows.

Eighty-one percent of Americans now say that obesity is an “extremely” or “very serious” problem, compared to the 67 percent who express such concern about smoking and the 47 percent who feel that way about alcohol use. As recently as 2004, Americans were equally worried about obesity and smoking.

“Americans are much more concerned about obesity now than they have been in the past,” say Gallup researchers. “The drastic increase in obesity over the past 20 years and Americans’ awareness of it are likely contributing to their growing concerns about the problems it is causing society. First lady Michelle Obama’s high-profile nationwide anti-childhood obesity campaign, launched in 2010, may have also affected Americans’ perceptions of the severity of the issue.”

However, “To what degree Americans would support the government itself taking action to address obesity is less clear,” according to Gallup. The survey shows that a modest majority of Americans believe that government plays an important role in preventing health problems associated with smoking and obesity. Concern about obesity crosses political party lines, but Republicans are much less likely to see a government role in prevention than Democrats or independents.

(Photo © Toby Otter via Flickr)