Overweight Children and Youth

Publication Date:

Nov 04, 2018

Key facts about childhood obesity

• The proportion of U.S. youth who are obese continued to increase in 2015-2016, reaching a new high of 19 percent, more than triple the 5 percent proportion in 1971-1974.
• In 2015-2016, Hispanic males were more likely to be obese than their non-Hispanic black, white, and Asian peers (28 percent, versus 19, 15, and 12 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic females were more likely to be obese than their non-Hispanic white and Asian peers (at 25 and 24 percent, versus 14 and 10 percent, respectively).
• The proportion of obesity in children and youth increases with age; 14 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2015-2016, compared with 18 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and 21 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.

Trends in childhood obesity

In 2015-2016, children ages 6 to 11 were more than four times as likely to be obese (having a body mass index [BMI] at or above the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile) as they were in 1971-1974 (18 and 4 percent, respectively. Over the same period, the share of adolescents ages 12 to 19 who were obese more than tripled, from 6 to 21 percent. Obesity rates among children 2 to 5 years old have followed a similar pattern, increasing from 5 percent in 1971-1974 to 14 percent in 2015-2016 (Appendix 1).

The percentage of children who are overweight (having a BMI at or above the sex- and age-specific 85th percentile) follows similar trends. Children ages 2 to 19 were more likely to be overweight in 2013-2014, the latest year for which these data are available, than they were in 1971-1974 (16 and 10 percent, respectively) (Appendix 2).

Differences by gender

Overall, boys and girls are about equally likely to be obese or overweight. In 2015-2016, 19 percent of males were obese, compared with 18 percent of females. Among 6- to 11-year-olds, males had a higher rate of obesity than their female peers, at 20 and 16 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).

In 2013-2014, the latest year for which these data are available, 16 percent of both girls and boys were overweight (Appendix 2).

Differences by race/Hispanic origin1

Among females ages 2 to 19 in 2015-2016, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children and youth were more likely to be obese than their non-Hispanic white and Asian peers (at 25 and 24 percent, versus 14 and 10 percent, respectively). Hispanic males in the same age group were more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic black, white, and Asian males (at 28 percent versus 19, 15, and 12 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

International estimates

According to the International Obesity Taskforce, more than 155 million school-aged children worldwide are overweight. See https://www.worldobesity.org/data/map/trend-maps-girls.

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 2015-2016: Hales, C. M., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Ogden, C. L. (2017). Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2015-2016 (NSCH Data Brief No. 288). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db288.htm.
  • Data for 1971-2014: Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D., & Ogden, C. L. (2016). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years: United States, 1963-1965 through 2013-2014. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_13_14/obesity_child_13_14.pdf.

Raw data source

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Children and Youth Who Are Obese: Select Years, 1971-2016
Appendix 2. Percentage of Children and Youth Who Are Overweight: Select Years, 1971-2014

Background

Definition

In children, obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile, while overweight is defined as having a BMI at or above the sex- and age-specific 85th percentile. Obesity statistics for 1971-1974, and overweight statistics for 1971-1991, are based on BMI distributions of nationally representative samples from 1963-1970. Data for other years are based on the revised CDC Growth Charts, which refer to nationally representative samples of children from 1963 to 1994. They are not intended to represent ideal development. For more information, see

Kuczmarski, R. J., Ogden, C. L., Guo, S. S., Grummer-Strawn, L. M., Flegal, K. M., et al. (2002). 2000 CDC growth charts for the United States: Methods and development. Vital Health Stat, 11(246). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_11/sr11_246.pdf.

BMI is expressed as weight (in pounds) divided by height squared (in inches), all multiplied by 703. For example, an adult who is six feet, two inches tall and weighs 200 pounds has a BMI of 25.7, which standard weight tables list as overweight.

Current BMI age-for-growth charts for the United States are available at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-for-age.htm.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Overweight children and youth. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/overweight-children-and-youth.

Endnotes

1. Hispanic youth may be of any race.