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Overweight Children Ages 6-17: Percentage has Increased from 6% in 1976 to 17% in 2006

To help children maintain a healthy weight, parents should encourage healthy eating habits, help kids stay active, and reduce sedentary time.

Chart: Children ages 6–17 who are overweight by gender, 1976–2006 Overweight is defined as body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex specific BMI-for-age growth charts. 1976-1980: Total (5.7%), Male (5.5%), Female (5.8%); 1988-1994: Total (11.2%), Male (11.8%), Female (10.6%); 1999-2000: Total (15.0%); Male (15.7%), Female (14.3%); 2001-2002: Total (16.5%), Male (18.0%), Female (15.1%); 2003-2004: Total (18.0%), Male (19.1%), Female (16.8%); 2005-2006: Total (16.5%), Male (17.2%), Female (15.9%).

This feature highlights data from America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009. The data are complied by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (22 Federal agencies including CDC and their private research partners). As its Foreward states: "The report presents 40 key indicators on important aspects of children's lives. These indicators are drawn from our most reliable statistics, easily understood by broad audiences, objectively based on substantial research, balanced so that no single area of children's lives dominates the report, measured regularly so that they can be updated to show trends over time, and representative of large segments of the population rather than one particular group."

The report indicators include content in the following areas: demographic background, family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health. CDC is highlighting data from the NCHS National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey assessing the percentage of overweight children ages 6-17 between 1976 and 2006. Overweight is defined as body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. BMI is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.

  • Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the percentage of children who are overweight. During the period 1976–1980, only 6 percent of children ages 6–17 were overweight. By 1988–1994, this percentage had risen to 11 percent of children ages 6–17, and in 1999–2000 it was 15 percent. In 2005–2006, 17 percent of children were overweight. There was no significant change in the percentage of overweight children between 2003–2004 and 2005–2006.
  • In 2005–2006, there was no difference between boys and girls in the percentage of children who were overweight.
  • In 2005–2006, 15 percent of children ages 6–11 were overweight and 18 percent of adolescents ages 12–17 were overweight. There was no statistical difference between the percentages of the younger and older age groups.

Reference: CDC. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). 1976-2006.

Data Source: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Chart: Children ages 6-17 who are overwieght* by gender, 1976-2006.

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