Follow us:


Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

April 9, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Study: Two Wash. cities on opposite ends of U.S. obesity scale

Cyclocross riders in Bellingham. (Photo: MIKE MCQUAIDE / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Cyclocross riders in Bellingham burning off those calories. (Photo: MIKE MCQUAIDE / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Newly released data bestow a peculiar distinction upon Washington: We’re the only state with cities ranked in the top five and the bottom five in the nation for obesity.

Last week, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released its data for 2012 and 2013. The Index is based on surveys with American adults in 189 metro areas on a variety of health issues.

Among the findings: Bellingham is one of the nation’s thinnest communities, and Yakima among the most obese.

Just 18.7 percent of adults in the Bellingham area reported a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which is considered obese.  That ranks Bellingham as having the fourth-lowest obesity rate among all metro areas in the study. Surely not a coincidence, the data also show that 60 percent of Bellingham residents get regular exercise — sixth highest in the nation.

But head over the mountains to Yakima, and a very different picture emerges.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The data show that 35.7 percent of adults are obese in Yakima. That ranks it as the fourth-most obese place in the U.S.

And sadly, there is more bad news for Yakima. The area also has the third-highest rate of uninsured individuals (30.4 percent) and the fourth-highest rate of individuals who suffer from daily stress (65.1 percent), according to the study.

Among all metro areas surveyed, the lowest obesity rate (12.4 percent) is in Boulder, Colo, while Huntington, W.Va., has the highest rate (39.5 percent).

As for Seattle, we’re a lot closer to Bellingham than we are to Yakima.  At 22.8%, the obesity rate in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area ranks as the 10th-lowest among the 52 metro areas with populations of at least one million.

And Washington did come away from this study with one city holding a No. 1 spot.  With 65.7 percent of adults regularly including fruits and vegetables in their diet, the gold medal for healthful eating goes to: Olympia.

Comments | More in Reports | Topics: health, obesity


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.