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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

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.136, 137 The consequences of obesity during childhood often are psychosocial but also include impaired mobility, early puberty, and asthma.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 From 1999 through 2018, obesity among children and adolescents ages 6–11 and 12–19 continued to increase.138 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.139

Indicator Health7: Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1999–2002 through 2015–2018
Indicator Health 7 Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1999–2002 through 2015–2018

NOTE: A body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile is defined as "obesity." Prior to America's Children, 2010, a BMI at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts was termed overweight (https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts). Estimates of persons with obesity are comparable to estimates of overweight in past reports.140 Data on race are based on the 1997 U.S. Office of Management and Budget standards for data on race and ethnicity. Persons can select one or more of the following five racial groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or 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 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.

  • From 1999–2002 through 2015–2018, the percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity increased from 16%to 20%.
  • In 2015–2018, about 19% of children ages 6–11 and 21% of adolescents ages 12–17 had obesity; there was no statistical difference between the percentages.
  • In 2015–2018, Black, non-Hispanic (26%) and Hispanic (27%) children ages 6–17 were more likely to have obesity than White, non-Hispanic (15%) or Asian, non-Hispanic (11%) children ages 6–17.
  • In 2015–2018, there was no statistical difference between the percentages of boys (21%) and girls (19%) ages 6–17 who had obesity.

table icon HEALTH7 HTML Table

136 Kumar, S., & Kelly, A. S. (2017). Review of childhood obesity: From epidemiology, etiology, and comorbidities to clinical assessment and treatment. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92(2), 251–265.

137 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.

138 Ogden, C. L, Fryar, C. D., Martin, C. B., Freedman, D. S., Carroll, M. D., Gu, Q., & Hales, C. M. (2020). Trends in obesity prevalence by race and Hispanic origin—1999–2000 to 2017–2018. Journal of the American Medical Association, 324(12), 1208–1210.

139 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.

140 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.