Risk Factors for Obesity

A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get obesity with or without the ones listed below. The chances of getting obesity are greater in people who have many risk factors.

Obesity is more common in older adults. It is also more common in people who are Hispanic, Black, and White. Other things that can raise the risk are:


Obesity is more common in people who have parents with obesity. Some rare, inherited disease may also raise the risk.

Eating Habits

Eating a lot of fast food and high-calorie, low-nutrient foods raises the risk.

Children who do not eat regular meals with their family are also at higher risk.

Low Activity Level

People who do not burn calories through activity have a higher risk of becoming obese.

Children and adults who are not active and spend a lot of time using screens have a higher risk of becoming obese.

Sleep Habits

People who sleep 6 or less hours a night have a higher risk of becoming obese. This includes shift workers.

Mental Health Factors

Mental health problems like depression can raise the risk in both adults and children. Taking medicine to treat these problems can also lead to obesity.

The risk of obesity is also higher in children with learning disabilities and those who were abused as children.


People who quit smoking have a higher risk of becoming obese. However, the benefits of quitting are higher than the risk of gaining weight. The risk of obesity may also be lowered with activity.



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Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD