Adult Obesity

The causes of obesity are a complex combination of individual behaviors, genetics, and the environment. In addition to diet patterns and physical activity levels, factors such as access to healthy foods, access to parks and recreational areas, nutritional education, and exposure to food marketing contribute to obesity.

Obesity is associated with poorer mental health outcomes and reduced quality of life. It contributes to the development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. Obesity has also been shown to increase all-cause mortality rates.1

Findings in Santa Barbara County


The prevalence of obesity is measured by asking respondents to report their weight and height. Respondents report their weight in pounds and height in feet and inches. These measurements are then converted to kilograms and meters to calculate the respondent’s body mass index (BMI), which is kg/m2.

Obesity is defined as a BMI ≥30kg/m2. It’s important to note that these data are self-reported, whereas the Healthy People 2020 Target was developed using BMI data collected in clinical settings (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey).

Table 12. Percentage of Obese Adults and Healthy People 2020 Target

2016 Santa Barbara
California*Health People 2020
%(95% CI) % (95% CI)
Overall 21.6 (19.1- 24.1) 24.7 (23.5 – 25.9)
Male 20.8 (17.0 – 24.6) 24.0 (22.3 – 25.6)
Female 22.5 (19.2 – 25.8) 25.4 (23.7 – 27.1)
Hispanic 28.4 (23.5 – 33.4) 32.3 (29.9 – 34.7)
Non-Hispanic White 17.9 (14.9 – 20.9) 22.7 (21.2 – 24.2)
Other 18.4 (10.9 – 25.9) NA

*2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Figure 32. Percentage of Self-Reported Overweight and Obese Adults in Santa Barbara County, by Sex and Age

Percentage of Self-Reported Overweight and Obese Adults in Santa Barbara County, by Sex and AgeClick to Enlarge

Figure 33. Percentage of Self-Reported Overweight and Obese Adults in Santa Barbara County by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and Income

Percentage of Self-Reported Overweight and Obese Adults in Santa Barbara County by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and IncomeClick to Enlarge

Health Disparities

Santa Barbara County adults have a lower prevalence of obesity than the HP 2020 target. However, a higher prevalence of people with lower income and education levels and middle-aged people are obese. In addition, a significantly higher percentage of Hispanics are obese compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Figure 34. Percentage of Obese Santa Barbara County Adults, by County Subregion

Percentage of Obese Santa Barbara County Adults, by County SubregionClick to Enlarge

Factors and Health Outcomes Associated with Obesity

Figure 35 presents various individual, social, and environmental factors that contribute to obesity levels in the population, selected health outcomes that are associated with obesity, and factors that contribute to the prevalence.

The major modifiable health characteristics that are risk factors for obesity include diet and insufficient physical activity.2 The figure compares people who are obese with all adults in the Santa Barbara County survey and Californians as a whole.

Figure 35. Health and Risk Factors of Obese Adults in Santa Barbara County (21.6%), Compared to all Santa Barbara County Adults and Californians* as a Whole

Health and Risk Factors of Obese Adults in Santa Barbara (21.6%), Compared to all Santa Barbara Adults and Californians* as a WholeClick to Enlarge

*Data for California are not available for all indicators

Adults in Santa Barbara County who are obese are more likely to report only fair or poor health, compared to others. They have higher rates of diabetes than others in the county and are more likely to report not having a high school degree and experiencing mental health issues, housing insecurity, and food insecurity.

Key Opportunities for Population Health Improvement

What Businesses Can Do

  • Provide information and education to increase employee knowledge of healthy diets and physical activity.2
  • Present individual or group behavioral counseling, skill-building activities, rewards or reinforcement for weight loss.3
  • Include co-workers and/or family members as support.4
  • Use policy and environmental changes to improve access to healthy foods at the worksite and more ways to be physically active at work.5
  • Provide physical infrastructure (e.g., bike parking or showers), educational or social support (e.g., walking groups), and financial incentives that support active commuting.6


What Healthcare Providers Can Do

  • Screen all adults for obesity.7
  • Offer counseling and behavioral interventions to change diet and/or physical activity choices.8
  • Write physical activity prescriptions, including individually-tailored exercise plans9 or through Healthy People Healthy Trails.10
  • Write nutrition prescriptions.11
  • Use culturally sensitive approaches to exercise and nutrition prescriptions.12


What Individuals Can Do

  • Balance calories consumed and calories used for activity; choose a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, and drinking water.13
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week and 2 days of strength training per week.14


1 Borrell, L. N., & Samuel, L. (2014). Body mass index categories and mortality risk in US adults: the effect of overweight and obesity on advancing death. American journal of public health, 104(3), 512-519.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016c). Overweight & obesity. Retrieved from

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