Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1963–1965 Through 2011–2012

by Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H.; Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H.; and Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys

PDF Version (138 KB)

Results from the 2011–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 16.9% of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2–19 years are obese, and another 14.9% are overweight.

Body mass index (BMI), expressed as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2), is commonly used to classify obesity among adults and is also recommended for use with children and adolescents. Cutoff criteria are based on the sex-specific BMI-for-age 2000 CDC Growth Charts for the United States. Based on current recommendations of expert committees, children and adolescents with BMI values at or above the 95th percentile of the growth charts are categorized as obese. This differs from previous years in which children and adolescents above this cutoff were labeled overweight. This change in terminology reflects the labels used by organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, see Ogden and Flegal, Changes in Terminology for Childhood Overweight and Obesity [PDF - 192 KB].

Table 1 shows the prevalence of overweight and obesity among youth aged 2–19 between 1971–1974 and 2011–2012. The figure shows trends in obesity in the same age group since 1971–1974, by sex.

Estimates of the prevalence of childhood obesity during the 1960s are available for certain age groups. Table 2 shows the prevalence of obesity among those aged 2–5, 6–11, and 12–19 since 1963–1965, by sex and age.

Table 3 shows the prevalence of obesity by race and Hispanic origin among youth aged 2–19 since 1988–1994.

Although BMI is widely used as a measure of body fat, at a given BMI level body fat may vary by sex, age, and race and Hispanic origin. In particular, research suggests that Asian persons may have more body fat than white persons, especially at lower BMIs, and that health risks may begin at a lower BMI among Asian persons compared with others.

NHANES, conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), is a stratified, multistage probability sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States. A household interview and a physical examination are conducted for each survey participant. During the physical examination, conducted in a mobile examination center, height and weight are measured as part of a more comprehensive set of body measurements. These measurements are taken by trained health technicians, using standardized measuring procedures and equipment. Observations for persons missing a valid height or weight measurement and for pregnant females were not included in the data analysis.

For additional information on NHANES methods, visit the NHANES methods page.

Figure

Figure. Trends in obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by sex: United States, selected years 1971–1974 through 2011–2012

The figure is a line graph showing trends in obesity among U.S. children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, by sex, for the period 1971 to 1974 through 2011 to 2012.

NOTE: Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 1971–1974; 1976–1980; 1988–1994; 1999–2000, 2001–2002, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2007–2008, 2009–2010, and 2011–2012.

Tables

Table 1a. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years: United States, selected years 1971–1974 through 2011–2012
Survey period Sample (n) Overweight Obese
Percent (standard error)
1971–1974 7,041 10.2 (0.6) 5.2 (0.3)
1976–1980 7,351 9.2 (0.4) 5.5 (0.4)
1988–1994 10,777 13.0 (0.7) 10.0 (0.5)
1999–2000 4,039 14.2 (0.9) 13.9 (0.9)
2001–2002 4,261 14.6 (0.6) 15.4 (0.9)
2003–2004 3,961 16.5 (0.8) 17.1 (1.3)
2005–2006 4,207 14.6 (0.9) 15.4 (1.4)
2007–2008 3,249 14.8 (0.7) 16.8 (1.3)
2009–2010 3,408 14.9 (0.8) 16.9 (0.7)
2011–2012 3,355 14.9 (0.9) 16.9 (1.0)

NOTES: Excludes pregnant females. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 85th and less than the 95th percentiles from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts. Obesity is BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 1b. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among boys aged 2–19 years: United States, selected years 1971–1974 through 2011–2012
Survey period Overweight Obese
Percent (standard error)
1971–1974 10.3 (0.8) 5.3 (0.5)
1976–1980 9.4 (0.6) 5.4 (0.4)
1988–1994 12.6 (0.8) 10.2 (0.7)
1999–2000 15.0 (1.9) 14.0 (1.2)
2001–2002 14.2 (0.7) 16.4 (1.0)
2003–2004 16.6 (1.0) 18.2 (1.5)
2005–2006 14.7 (1.2) 15.9 (1.5)
2007–2008 14.3 (0.7) 17.7 (1.4)
2009–2010 14.4 (1.0) 18.6 (1.1)
2011–2012 15.4 (1.4) 16.7 (1.4)

NOTE: Overweight is body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 85th and less than the 95th percentiles from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts. Obesity is BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 1c. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among girls aged 2–19 years: United States, selected years 1971–1974 through 2011–2012
Survey period Overweight Obese
Percent (standard error)
1971–1974 10.1 (0.8) 5.1 (0.4)
1976–1980 9.0 (0.5) 5.7 (0.6)
1988–1994 13.4 (0.9) 9.8 (0.8)
1999–2000 13.4 (0.8) 13.8 (1.1)
2001–2002 15.0 (0.9) 14.3 (1.3)
2003–2004 16.3 (0.9) 16.0 (1.4)
2005–2006 14.6 (1.0) 14.9 (1.6)
2007–2008 15.4 (1.5) 15.9 (1.5)
2009–2010 15.4 (0.9) 15.0 (0.8)
2011–2012 14.5 (1.5) 17.2 (1.2)

NOTE: Excludes pregnant females. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 85th and less than the 95th percentiles from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts. Obesity is BMI greater than or equal to the 95th percentile.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 2a. Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by age: United States, selected years 1963–1965 through 2011–2012
Survey period 2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years
Percent (standard error)
1963–1965/
1966–19701
--- 4.2 (0.4) 4.6 (0.3)
1971–1974 5.0 (0.6) 4.0 (0.5) 6.1 (0.6)
1976–1980 5.0 (0.6) 6.5 (0.6) 5.0 (0.5)
1988–1994 7.2 (0.7) 11.3 (1.0) 10.5 (0.9)
1999–2000 10.3 (1.7) 15.1 (1.4) 14.8 (0.9)
2001–2002 10.6 (1.8) 16.2 (1.6) 16.7 (1.1)
2003–2004 13.9 (1.6) 18.8 (1.3) 17.4 (1.7)
2005–2006 10.7 (1.1) 15.1 (2.1) 17.8 (1.8)
2007–2008 10.1 (1.2) 19.6 (1.2) 18.1 (1.7)
2009–2010 12.1 (1.2) 18.0 (0.8) 18.4 (1.3)
2011–2012 8.4 (1.3) 17.7 (1.6) 20.5 (1.7)

--- Data not available. Children aged 2–5 were not included in the surveys undertaken in the 1960s.

1 Data for 1963–1965 are for children aged 6–11; data for 1966–1970 are for adolescents aged 12–17 (not 12–19).

NOTES: Excludes pregnant females starting with 1971–1974. Pregnancy status not available for 1963–1965 and 1966–1970. Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 2b. Prevalence of obesity among boys aged 2–19 years, by age: United States, selected years 1963–1965 through 2011–2012
Survey period 2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years
Percent (standard error)
1963–1965/
1966–19701
--- 4.0 (0.4) 4.5 (0.4)
1971–1974 5.0 (0.9) 4.3 (0.8) 6.0 (0.8)
1976–1980 4.6 (0.6) 6.7 (0.8) 4.8 (0.5)
1988–1994 6.2 (0.8) 11.6 (1.3) 11.3 (1.3)
1999–2000 9.5 (2.3) 15.8 (1.8) 14.8 (1.3)
2001–2002 10.7 (2.4) 17.5 (1.9) 17.6 (1.3)
2003–2004 15.1 (1.7) 19.9 (2.0) 18.2 (1.9)
2005–2006 10.4 (1.7) 16.2 (2.5) 18.2 (2.4)
2007–2008 9.3 (1.5) 21.2 (1.6) 19.3 (2.2)
2009–2010 14.4 (1.8) 20.1 (1.0) 19.6 (2.3)
2011–2012 9.5 (1.9) 16.4 (1.8) 20.3 (2.4)

--- Data not available. Children aged 2–5 were not included in the surveys undertaken in the 1960s.

1 Data for 1963–1965 are for children aged 6–11; data for 1966–1970 are for adolescents aged 12–17 (not 12–19).

NOTE: Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 2c. Prevalence of obesity among girls aged 2–19 years, by age: United States, selected years 1963–1965 through 2011–2012
Survey period 2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years
Percent (standard error)
1963–1965/
1966–19701
--- 4.5 (0.6) 4.7 (0.3)
1971–1974 4.9 (0.8) 3.6 (0.6) 6.2 (0.8)
1976–1980 5.4 (1.0) 6.4 (1.0) 5.3 (0.8)
1988–1994 8.2 (1.1) 11.0 (1.4) 9.7 (1.1)
1999–2000 11.2 (2.5) 14.3 (2.1) 14.8 (1.1)
2001–2002 10.5 (1.8) 14.8 (2.3) 15.7 (1.9)
2003–2004 12.7 (2.5) 17.6 (1.3) 16.4 (2.3)
2005–2006 11.0 (1.2) 14.1 (2.4) 17.3 (2.1)
2007–2008 10.9 (2.1) 18.0 (2.1) 16.8 (2.0)
2009–2010 9.6 (1.7) 15.7 (1.0) 17.1 (1.3)
2011–2012 7.2 (2.1) 19.1 (1.7) 20.7 (2.0)

--- Data not available. Children aged 2–5 were not included in the surveys undertaken in the 1960s.

1 Data for 1963–1965 are for children aged 6–11; data for 1966–1970 are for adolescents aged 12–17 (not 12–19).

NOTES: Excludes pregnant females starting with 1971–1974. Pregnancy status not available for 1963–1965 and 1966–1970. Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 3a. Prevalence of obesity among boys aged 2–19 years, by race and ethnicity: United States, selected years 1988–1994 through 2011–2012
Survey period Non-Hispanic white Non-Hispanic black Non-Hispanic Asian Hispanic Mexican American
Percent (standard error)
1988–1994 9.7 (1.1) 10.6 (0.8) --- --- 14.8 (1.4)
1999–2000 10.9 (1.5) 16.4 (1.2) --- --- 23.5 (1.5)
2001–2002 15.0 (1.5) 15.5 (1.3) --- --- 22.0 (1.3)
2003–2004 17.8 (2.2) 16.4 (1.5) --- --- 22.0 (1.6)
2005–2006 13.4 (1.9) 18.3 (1.3) --- --- 24.3 (2.7)
2007–2008 15.6 (1.9) 17.3 (2.2) --- 24.5 (1.7) 24.9 (2.3)
2009–2010 16.1 (1.8) 24.3 (2.8) --- 23.4 (1.4) 24.0 (1.7)
2011–2012 12.6 (2.4) 19.9 (1.1) 11.5 (1.6) 24.1 (1.4) 24.2 (1.5)

--- Data not available.

NOTE: Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 3b. Prevalence of obesity among girls aged 2–19 years, by race and ethnicity: United States, selected years 1988–1994 through 2011–2012
Survey period Non-Hispanic white Non-Hispanic black Non-Hispanic Asian Hispanic Mexican American
Percent (standard error)
1988–1994 8.6 (1.1) 14.5 (1.1) --- --- 13.8 (1.9)
1999–2000 11.1 (1.8) 21.4 (1.4) --- --- 16.8 (1.9)
2001–2002 12.7 (1.9) 19.5 (1.3) --- --- 17.0 (1.9)
2003–2004 14.9 (1.9) 23.8 (1.4) --- --- 16.1 (2.3)
2005–2006 12.2 (2.2) 24.4 (2.2) --- --- 20.6 (1.6)
2007–2008 14.9 (2.5) 22.8 (2.4) --- 17.3 (1.7) 16.6 (2.5)
2009–2010 11.7 (1.1) 24.3 (2.6) --- 18.9 (1.8) 18.2 (2.5)
2011–2012 15.6 (2.1) 20.5 (3.1) *5.6 (2.4) 20.6 (1.5) 21.1 (1.7)

--- Data not available.

* Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 40% and should be used with caution because it does not meet standards of reliability or precision.

NOTES: Excludes pregnant females. Obesity is body mass index greater than or equal to the sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

For more detailed estimates, see:
  • Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. JAMA 288(14):1728-32. 2002.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. JAMA 295(13):1549-55. 2006.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Flegal KM. High body mass index for age among U.S. children and adolescents, 2003–2006. JAMA 299(20):2401–5.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Lamb MM, Flegal KM. Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007-2008. JAMA 303(3):242-9. 2010.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999–2010. JAMA 307(5):483–90. 2012.

This Health E-Stat supersedes the earlier versions below:

  • Page last reviewed: November 6, 2015
  • Page last updated: September 19, 2014
  • Content source:
Top