The argument of a link between household income and the “thinnest U.S. States” is not as strong as the one for a connection between the “poorest” and “fattest” States as described in my article: “The Fattest U.S. States: The Link Between Obesity and Household Income.” According to data published by CalorieLab, Inc., and CNN Money, eight of the “top ten” States on the “fattest” and the “poorest” lists matched-a strong piece of evidence to support the link between the two.
However, the same “top ten” lists have only five U.S. States in common between the “thinnest” and “richest” results; still, a match of 5 out of 50 is rather unlikely without an underlining connection. CalorieLab lists the following “Thinnest U.S. States” per obesity results from a 2008 survey (view a picture of the map here); States are listed in order of lowest-to-highest obesity:
• Colorado at 18.4% Obesity
• Hawaii at 20.7% Obesity
• Connecticut at 20.8% Obesity
• Massachusetts at 20.9% Obesity
• Vermont at 25.5% Obesity
• Rhode Island at 21.4% Obesity
• Montana at 21.7% Obesity
• Utah at 21.8% Obesity
• New Jersey at 22.9% Obesity
• California at 23.1% Obesity
In comparison, CNN Money reports the “Top 10 Wealthiest States” as follows, in order of highest median household income reported by the Census Bureau:
• Maryland $65,144
• New Jersey $64,470
• Connecticut $63,422
• Hawaii $61,160
• Massachusetts $59,963
• New Hampshire $59,683
• Alaska $59,393
• California $56,645
• Virginia $56,277
• Minnesota $54,023
With 50% of the results matching–namely Hawaii, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California-it is difficult to dispute a possible connection between a healthy, fit lifestyle and a higher household income. A possible explanation for this link is the same as a theory behind the “fattest” and “poorest” list similarities: Healthy and fresh food costs more, on average, than pre-packaged and processed alternatives. Families with a larger grocery budget can afford to spend more on quality food, in addition to other fitness-promoting expenses; a gym membership, home fitness equipment, and even personal trainers or nutritional counselors.
Eight of the “thinnest U.S. States” are on the coast which could suggest a preoccupation with fitting into beach-wear and looking trim for swimsuit season, which happens to be considerably longer on the coast-and Americans do often have an obsession with physical appearance and attractiveness. Many of the “fattest” States are in the southeast, which is well known for being a humid and hot climate, yet only South Carolina is actually located on the coast.
Considering how expensive it can be to stock a “healthy” pantry and refrigerator, it is entirely possible that household income does factor into a community’s level of fitness. However, maintaining an active lifestyle and making good food choices is almost always the culprit behind a “thin” household, and both should be incorporated into anti-obesity diet plans.
CalorieLab, Inc., “Fattest States 2008: The CalorieLab United States of Obesity Rankings,”
Les Christie, “The richest (and poorest) places in the U.S.,” CNN Money