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Americans Slightly Taller, Much Heavier Than Four Decades Ago

For Release: Wednesday, October 27, 2004

 

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301)458-4800

E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, United States 1960-2002. Advance Data No. 347. 18 pp. (PHS 2005-1250). [PDF - 620 KB]

Adult men and women are roughly an inch taller than they were in 1960, but are nearly 25 pounds heavier on average as well, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, average BMI (body mass index, a weight-for-height formula used to measure obesity) has increased among adults from approximately 25 in 1960 to 28 in 2002.

The report, “Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index (BMI) 1960-2002: United States,” prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, shows that the average height of a man aged 20-74 years increased from just over 5-8 in 1960 to 5-9 ½ in 2002, while the average height of a woman the same age increased from slightly over 5-3 in 1960 to 5-4 in 2002.

Meanwhile, the average weight for men aged 20-74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002.

  • Though the average weight for men aged 20-39 years increased by nearly 20 pounds over the last four decades, the increase was greater among older men:
  • Men between the ages of 40 and 49 were nearly 27 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.
  • Men between the ages of 50 and 59 were nearly 28 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.
  • Men between the ages of 60 and 74 were almost 33 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

For women, the near opposite trend occurred:

  • Women aged 20-29 were nearly 29 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.
  • Women aged 40-49 were about 25½ pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.
  • Women aged 60-74 were about 17½ pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Meanwhile, the report documented that average weights for children are increasing as well:

  • The average weight for a 10-year-old boy in 1963 was 74.2 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 85 pounds.
  • The average weight for a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was 77.4 pounds; by 2002 the average weight was nearly 88 pounds.
  • A 15-year-old boy weighed 135.5 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight of a boy that age increased to 150.3 pounds.
  • A 15-year-old girl weighed 124.2 pounds on average in 1966; by 2002 the average weight for a girl that age was 134.4 pounds.

According to the report, average heights for children also increased over the past four decades. For example:

  • The average height of a 10-year-old boy in 1963 was 55.2 inches, by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old boy had increased to 55.7 inches.
  • The average height of a 10-year-old girl in 1963 was about 55.5 inches; by 2002 the average height of a 10-year-old girl had increased to 56.4 inches.
  • In 1966, the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 67.5 inches or almost 5-7½; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old boy was 68.4 or almost 5-8½.
  • In 1996, the average height of a 15-year-old girl was 63.9 inches; by 2002 the average height of a 15-year-old girl had not changed significantly (63.8 inches).

Average BMI for children and teens has also increased:

  • In 1963, the average BMI for a 7-year-old boy was 15.9; in 2002 it was 17.0. For girls the same age, the average BMI increased from 15.8 to 16.6 over the same period.
  • In 1966, the average BMI for a 16-year-old boy was 21.3; in 2002, it was 24.1. For girls the same age, the average BMI increased from 21.9 to 24.0 over the same period.

The BMI is a single number than evaluates an individual's weight status in relation to height.  BMI is generally used as the first indicator in assessing body fat and has been the most common method of tracking weight problems and obesity among adults.

The data in the report was based on actual body measurements taken as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has conducted periodically since 1960. The NCHS report “Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index (BMI) 1960-2002: United States” is available on-line at the CDC/NCHS Web site.

 

 

 

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