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Health risk factors in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

There are many everyday habits and behaviors that can pose significant risks to human health. Smoking tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, a lack of exercise and poor diet, drug use, and unprotected sex are common examples. Such activities can increase the risk of numerous diseases including hypertension, heart disease, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and diabetes. These behaviors and habits not only impact the health of individuals, but are also very costly. In 2020, it was estimated that health care costs due to tobacco use alone in the United States totaled 168 billion dollars, while the health care costs due to illicit drugs were estimated at 11 billion dollars.


The health risks of smoking are now widely known, however, around 14 percent of adults in the U.S. still smoked in 2018, although this is a decrease from previous years. Smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer among men by 25 percent and slightly more among women, with around 81 percent of all lung cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking. Smoking also increases a person's chances of developing coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and having a stroke. Exposure to secondhand smoking also results in increased health risks for diseases and can be particularly harmful for infants, young children, and pregnant women.

Overweight and obesity

In contrast to the decrease in tobacco use, the problem of weight and obesity continues to be prevalent in the United States. The percent of the population that is obese has risen steadily over the last decade, with 31.7 percent of adults reported to be obese in 2018. This increase in obesity is due to various factors, including unhealthy eating habits and a lack of physical activity. Over a quarter of the entire adult population in the U.S. is considered physically inactive, with rates as high as 38 percent in the state of Mississippi. The health risks of being overweight include high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes.

Sex and STDs

Even a natural activity, like sex, can contain health risks if not practiced safely. Rates of some sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, have increased in recent years, with 35 new cases of syphilis reported per 100,000 population in 2018. Some of the best ways people can protect against STDs are by using male condoms, being tested, and becoming vaccinated. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is safe and effective and is recommended for all youth and young adults. Nevertheless, in 2019, only 71.5 percent of males aged 13 to 17 years had received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine.

Interesting statistics

In the following 7 chapters, you will quickly find the 63 most important statistics relating to "Health risk factors in the U.S.".


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