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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020


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.56, 57 The consequences of obesity for children and adolescents often are psychosocial but also include high blood pressure, diabetes, early puberty, and asthma.57, 58 The prevalence of obesity among U.S. children changed relatively little from the early 1960s through 1980; however, after 1980, it increased sharply.59 In addition to individual factors, such as diet and physical activity, social, economic, and environmental forces may have contributed to the increased prevalence of obesity.60

Figure 21 Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by metropolitan status, 2013–2018
Figure 21 Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by metropolitan status, 2013–2018

NOTE: Obesity for children and adolescents is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Growth Charts ( BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is calculated as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies some counties as within a metropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are considered nonmetropolitan. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas.

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

  • In 2013–2018, 20% of children ages 6–17 had obesity.
  • The percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity was higher for those living in nonmetropolitan counties (25%) compared with those living in metropolitan counties (19%).

table icon Brief18 HTML Table

56 Singh, A. S., Mulder, C., Twisk, J. W. R., van Mechelen, W., & Chinapaw, M. J. M. (2008). Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Review, 9(5), 474–488. X.2008.00475.x

57 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.

58 Lakshman, R., Elks, C. E., & Ong, K. K. (2012). Childhood obesity. Circulation, 126(14), 1770–1779.

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

60 Barlow, S. E., & the Expert Committee (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.