Obesity is associated with adverse health outcomes in people with and without disabilities. However, little is known about disability prevalence among people who are obese. The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence and type of disability among adults who are obese.

Design and Methods:

Pooled data from the 2003-2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were analyzed to obtain national prevalence estimates of disability, disability type and obesity. The disability prevalence was stratified by body mass index (BMI): healthy weight (BMI 18.5-<25.0), overweight (BMI 25.0-<30.0), and obese (BMI ≥ 30.0).


In this pooled sample, among the 25.4% of US adults who were obese, 41.7% reported a disability. In contrast, 26.7% of those with a healthy weight and 28.5% of those who were overweight reported a disability. The most common disabilities among respondents with obesity were movement difficulty (32.5%) and work limitation (16.6%).


This research contributes to the literature on obesity by including disability as a demographic in assessing the burden of obesity. Because of the high prevalence of disability among those who are obese, public health programs should consider the needs of those with disabilities when designing obesity prevention and treatment programs.