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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013


Obese adolescents often become obese adults, with increased risks for a wide variety of poor health outcomes, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.134, 135 The immediate consequences of obesity in childhood are often psychosocial, but also include cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes.136 The prevalence of obesity among U.S. children changed relatively little from the early 1960s through 1980; however, after 1980 it increased sharply.137 Between 1999 and 2010, the prevalence of obesity increased in boys and remained stable in girls.138 In addition to individual factors such as diet and physical activity, social, economic, and environmental forces (e.g., advances in technology and trends in eating out) may have contributed to the high prevalence of obesity.

Indicator Health7: Percentage of children ages 6–17 who are obese by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1976–2010
Percentage of children ages 6–17 who are obese by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1976–2010

NOTE: Previously a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts was termed overweight ( Beginning with America's Children, 2010, a BMI at or above the 95th percentile is termed obese to be consistent with other National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) publications. Estimates of obesity are comparable to estimates of overweight in past reports.139 All estimates have a relative standard error of less than 30 percent and meet agency standards for publication. Observed differences between 2-year estimates for race/ethnic groups are not statistically significant unless noted. From 1976 to 1994, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards were used to classify persons into one of four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. For 1999–2010, the revised 1997 OMB standards were used. Persons could select one or more of five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Included in the total are racial groups not shown separately. Beginning in 1999, racial categories represent persons reporting only one race. Data from 1999 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Persons of Mexican origin may be of any race.

From 1976 to 2006, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) sample was designed to provide estimates specifically for persons of Mexican origin. In 2007, NHANES allowed for reporting of total Hispanics and for Mexican Americans; however, estimates reported here are for Mexican Americans to be consistent with earlier years.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • In 1976–1980, only 6 percent of children ages 6–17 were obese. This percentage rose to 11 percent in 1988–1994 and to 19 percent in 2007–2008. In 2009–2010, about 18 percent of children ages 6–17 were obese, which was not statistically different from the percentage in 2007–2008.
  • In 2009–2010, about 18 percent of children ages 6–11 were obese, and 18 percent of adolescents ages 12–17 were obese.
  • In 2009–2010, Mexican American (23 percent) and Black, non-Hispanic (26 percent) children were more likely to be obese than White, non-Hispanic (15 percent) children.
  • In 2009–2010, there was no statistical difference between boys and girls in the percentage of children who were obese.

table icon HEALTH7 HTML Table

134 Singh, A.S., Mulder, C., Twisk, J.W., Van, M.W., and Chinapaw, M.J. (2008). Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Review, 9, 474–488.

135 Must, A., Anderson, S.E. (2003). Effects of obesity on morbidity in children and adolescents. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 6(1), 4–11.

136 Dietz, W.H. (1998). Health consequences of obesity in youth: Childhood predictors of adult disease. Pediatrics, 105, 518–525.

137 Ogden, C.L., Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., and Johnson, C.L. (2002). Prevalence and trends in overweight among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999–2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(14), 1728–1732.

138 Ogden, C.L., Carroll, M.D., Kit, B.K., and Flegal, K.M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999–2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5):483–90.

139 Ogden, C.L., and Flegal, K.M. (2010). Changes in terminology for childhood overweight and obesity. National Health Statistics Reports, 25. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from