SWHR: Transforming Science

SWHR on Facebook  SWHR on Twitter  SWHR on YouTube

Fact Sheet: Sex Differences in Obesity

Part 1: Definitions and Epidemiology

Part 2: Effects of Life Stages and Metabolic Hormones

Part 3: Effects of Fat Distribution

Part 4: Obesity’s Impact on Co-morbidities

Part 5: Neural Mechanisms of Appetite and Satiety

Part 6: Effectiveness and Interventions


Obesity is usually determined by body-mass index (BMI), which is equal to the weight of a person (in kg) divided by their height (in meters) squared. Significant categories of BMI are:

Weight BMI
Underweight <18.5
Normal Weight 18.5-24.9
Overweight 25-29.9
Obese 30-34.9
Morbidly Obese 35+

Abdominal obesity is determined by measuring waist circumference (WC). Although WC is related to BMI, it is an independent cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk predictor, especially in patients categorized as having normal or overweight BMI. A WC > 35 inches (88 cm) in women and >40 inches (102 cm) in men indicates increased CVD risk across normal to obese BMI categories.1

Other methods of estimating body fat and body fat distribution include measurements of skinfold thickness and WC, calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios, and techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


  • Between 2005-2006, 33.1% of  men and 35.2% of women.2 were obese. Between 1999-2004, the prevalence of extreme obesity was higher in women (7% vs 3%).3

  • A racial/ethnic divide exists for overall obesity and for sex differences in obesity. Among black people, 54.3% of females and 36.3% of males were obese between the years 2003-2006. Among Mexican females and males, the prevalence was 42.6% and 30.4%, respectively.4

  • Normal weight individuals with diabetes, dyslipidemia, or hypertension had significantly greater medical expenditures than those without these conditions, but obesity significantly exacerbated this effect by at least $7600. Obesity also exacerbated the increase in missed work days and lost productivity seen in patients with these conditions.5

Page Last Updated: July 2009

Privacy | Legal | Contact Us | E-News | Sitemap | Follow us on: SWHR on Facebook SWHR on Twitter SWHR on YouTube
Society for Women's Health Research | 1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 601, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202)223-8224 | Fax: (202)833-3472 | E-mail: info@swhr.org