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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2019

Obesity

Children with obesity often become adults with obesity, with increased risks for a wide variety of poor health outcomes, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.139, 140 The consequences of obesity for children and adolescents are often psychosocial but also include high blood pressure, diabetes, early puberty, and asthma.140, 141 The prevalence of obesity among U.S. children changed relatively little from the early 1960s through 1980; however, after 1980, it increased sharply.142 In addition to individual factors, such as diet and physical activity, social, economic, and environmental forces (such as family, school, or community factors that promote more eating out and less physical activity) may have contributed to the increased prevalence of obesity.143

Indicator HEALTH7: Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1976–1980 through 2013–2016
Indicator HEALTH7: Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1976–1980 through 2013–2016

NOTE: Previously, a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts was termed "overweight" (https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts). 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 publications. Estimates of persons with obesity are comparable with estimates of overweight in past reports.144 From 1976 to 1994, the 1977 U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. For 1999–2014, the revised 1997 OMB standards were used. Persons could select one or more of the following 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, but not shown separately, are American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and "Two or more races." Beginning in 1999, those in each racial category represent those reporting only one race. Data from 1999 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately but are combined for reporting. 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. Beginning in 2007, NHANES allows for reporting of both total Hispanics and 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, 6% of children ages 6–17 had obesity. This percentage rose to 11% in 1988–1994 and 16% in 1999–2002.
  • In 1976–1980, 5% of White, non-Hispanic children ages 6–17 had obesity. This percentage rose to 11% in 1988–1994 and 16% in 2013–2016. In 1976–1980, 8% of Black, non-Hispanic children ages 6–17 had obesity. This percentage rose to 14% in 1988–1994 and 24% in 2013–2016. In 1988–1994, 8% of Mexican American children ages 6–17 had obesity; this increased to 26% in 2013–2016.
  • From 1999–2002 through 2013–2016, the percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity did not differ statistically, ranging from 16% to 19%.
  • In 2013–2016, about 18% of children ages 6–11 and 21% of adolescents ages 12–17 had obesity; there was no statistical difference between the percentages.
  • In 2013–2016, Hispanic (25%) and Black, non-Hispanic (23%) children ages 6–17 were more likely to have obesity than White, non-Hispanic (16%) or Asian, non-Hispanic (11%) children ages 6–17.
  • In 2013–2016, there was no statistical difference between the percentages of boys (20%) and girls (19%) ages 6–17 who had obesity.

table icon HEALTH7 HTML Table

139 Singh, A. S., Mulder, C., Twisk, J. W., Van, M. W., & Chinapaw, M. J. (2008). Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Review, 9(5), 474–488. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7 X.2008.00475.x

140 Whitlock, E. P., Williams, S. B., Gold, R., Smith, P. R., & Shipman, S. A. (2005). Screening and interventions for childhood overweight: A summary of evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Pediatrics, 116(1), e125–e144. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2005-0242

141 Lakshman, R., Elks, C. E., & Ong, K. K. (2012). Childhood obesity. Circulation, 126(14), 1770–1779. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.047738

142 Ogden, C. L., Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., & 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. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.288.14.1728

143 Barlow, S. E. (2007). Expert committee recommendations regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity: Summary report. Pediatrics, 120(Suppl. 4), S164–S192.

144 Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999–2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5), 483–490. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2012.40