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Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Children and Adolescents Aged 2–19 Years: United States, 1963–1965 Through 2015–2016

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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 (942 KB)

 

Results from the 2015–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 18.5% of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2–19 years have obesity, including 5.6% with severe obesity, and another 16.6% 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 from expert committees, children and adolescents with BMI values at or above the 95th percentile of the growth charts are categorized as having obesity. This differs from previous years in which children and adolescents above this cutoff were categorized as overweight. This change in terminology reflects the category labels used by organizations such as the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics. For more information, see “Changes in Terminology for Childhood Overweight and Obesity [PDF – 192 KB]”. Severe obesity is BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile.

Table 1 shows the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among youth aged 2–19 years from 1971–1974 through 2015–2016. The estimates for all children are shown by age in the Figure.

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

Table 3 shows the prevalence of obesity by race and Hispanic origin among youth aged 2–19 years 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. For example, some 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 the National Center for Health Statistics, 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 are not included in the data analysis.

Visit the NHANES website for additional information on methods.

 

Figure

Figure. Trends in obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by age: United States, 1963–1965 through 2015–2016

Image of chart showing trends in childhood obesity

NOTE: Obesity is defined as body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile from the sex-specific BMI-for-age 2000 CDC Growth Charts.
SOURCES: NCHS, National Health Examination Surveys II (ages 6–11) and III (ages 12–17); and National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) I–III, and NHANES 1999–2000, 2001–2002, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2007–2008, 2009–2010, 2011–2012, 2013–2014, and 2015–2016.

 

Tables

Table 1. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by sex: United States, 1971–1974 through 2015–2016

Survey period Sample (n) Percent (standard error)
All1 Boys Girls1
Overweight Obesity Severe obesity Overweight Obesity Severe obesity Overweight Obesity Severe obesity
1971–1974 7,041 10.2 (0.6) 5.2 (0.3) 1.0 (0.1) 10.3 (0.8) 5.3 (0.5) 1.0 (0.2) 10.1 (0.8) 5.1 (0.4) 1.0 (0.2)
1976–1980 7,351 9.2 (0.4) 5.5 (0.4) 1.3 (0.2) 9.4 (0.6) 5.4 (0.4) 1.2 (0.3) 9.0 (0.5) 5.6 (0.6) 1.3 (0.3)
1988–1994 10,777 13.0 (0.7) 10.0 (0.5) 2.6 (0.4) 12.6 (0.9) 10.2 (0.7) 2.7 (0.5) 13.4 (0.9) 9.8 (0.8) 2.6 (0.4)
1999–2000 4,039 14.2 (0.9) 13.9 (0.9) 3.6 (0.5) 15.0 (1.9) 14.0 (1.2) 3.7 (0.7) 13.4 (0.8) 13.8 (1.1) 3.6 (0.6)
2001–2002 4,261 14.6 (0.6) 15.4 (0.9) 5.2 (0.5) 14.2 (0.7) 16.4 (1.0) 6.1 (0.8) 15.0 (0.9) 14.3 (1.3) 4.2 (0.6)
2003–2004 3,961 16.5 (0.8) 17.1 (1.3) 5.1 (0.6) 16.6 (1.0) 18.2 (1.5) 5.4 (0.8) 16.3 (0.9) 16.0 (1.4) 4.7 (0.7)
2005–2006 4,207 14.6 (0.9) 15.4 (1.4) 4.7 (0.6) 14.7 (1.2) 15.9 (1.5) 4.9 (0.8) 14.6 (1.0) 14.9 (1.6) 4.5 (0.7)
2007–2008 3,249 14.8 (0.7) 16.8 (1.3) 4.9 (0.6) 14.3 (0.7) 17.7 (1.4) 5.5 (0.8) 15.4 (1.5) 15.9 (1.5) 4.3 (0.8)
2009–2010 3,408 14.9 (0.8) 16.9 (0.7) 5.6 (0.6) 14.4 (1.0) 18.6 (1.1) 6.4 (1.0) 15.4 (0.9) 15.0 (0.8) 4.7 (0.6)
2011–2012 3,355 14.9 (0.9) 16.9 (1.0) 5.6 (0.7) 15.4 (1.3) 16.7 (1.4) 5.7 (0.9) 14.5 (1.4) 17.2 (1.2) 5.5 (0.8)
2013–2014 3,523 16.2 (0.6) 17.2 (1.1) 6.0 (0.6) 16.4 (0.8) 17.2 (1.3) 5.6 (0.6) 16.0 (1.0) 17.1 (1.6) 6.3 (0.9)
2015–2016 3,340 16.6 (0.8) 18.5 (1.3) 5.6 (0.8) 15.7 (1.0) 19.1 (1.7) 6.3 (1.0) 17.6 (1.2) 17.8 (1.2) 4.9 (0.9)

1Excludes pregnant females.
NOTE: Overweight is body mass index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile and below than the 95th percentile from the sex-specific BMI-for-age 2000 CDC Growth Charts. Obesity is BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Severe obesity is BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile.
SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 2. Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by sex and age: United States, 1963–1965 through 2015–2016

Survey period Percent (standard error)
All1 Boys Girls1
2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years 2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years 2–5 years 6–11 years 12–19 years
1963–1965 – – – 4.2 (0.4) – – – – – – 4.0 (0.4) – – – – – – 4.5 (0.6) – – –
1966–19702 – – – – – – 4.6 (0.3) – – – – – – 4.5 (0.4) – – – – – – 4.7 (0.3)
1971–1974 5.0 (0.6) 4.0 (0.5) 6.1 (0.6) 5.0 (0.8) 4.3 (0.8) 6.1 (0.8) 4.9 (0.8) 3.6 (0.6) 6.2 (0.8)
1976–1980 5.0 (0.6) 6.5 (0.6) 5.0 (0.5) 4.7 (0.6) 6.6 (0.8) 4.8 (0.5) 5.3 (1.0) 6.4 (1.0) 5.3 (0.8)
1988–1994 7.2 (0.7) 11.3 (1.0) 10.5 (0.9) 6.2 (0.8) 11.6 (1.3) 11.3 (1.3) 8.2 (1.0) 11.0 (1.4) 9.7 (1.1)
1999–2000 10.3 (1.7) 15.1 (1.4) 14.8 (0.9) 9.5 (2.3) 15.8 (1.8) 14.8 (1.3) 11.2 (2.5) 14.3 (2.1) 14.8 (1.0)
2001–2002 10.6 (1.8) 16.2 (1.6) 16.7 (1.1) 10.7 (2.4) 17.5 (1.9) 17.6 (1.3) 10.5 (1.8) 14.8 (2.3) 15.7 (1.9)
2003–2004 13.9 (1.6) 18.8 (1.3) 17.4 (1.7) 15.1 (1.7) 19.9 (2.0) 18.2 (1.9) 12.7 (2.5) 17.6 (1.3) 16.4 (2.3)
2005–2006 10.7 (1.1) 15.1 (2.1) 17.8 (1.8) 10.4 (1.7) 16.2 (2.5) 18.2 (2.4) 11.0 (1.2) 14.1 (2.4) 17.3 (2.1)
2007–2008 10.1 (1.2) 19.6 (1.2) 18.1 (1.7) 9.3 (1.5) 21.2 (1.6) 19.3 (2.2) 10.9 (2.1) 18.0 (2.1) 16.8 (2.0)
2009–2010 12.1 (1.2) 18.0 (0.8) 18.4 (1.3) 14.4 (1.8) 20.1 (1.0) 19.6 (2.3) 9.6 (1.7) 15.7 (1.0) 17.1 (1.3)
2011–2012 8.4 (1.3) 17.7 (1.6) 20.5 (1.7) 9.5 (1.9) 16.4 (1.8) 20.3 (2.4) 7.2 (2.1) 19.1 (1.7) 20.7 (2.0)
2013–2014 9.4 (1.3) 17.4 (1.7) 20.6 (2.1) 8.8 (2.0) 18.8 (2.4) 19.8 (2.2) 10.0 (1.3) 15.9 (1.9) 21.4 (3.2)
2015–2016 13.9 (1.1) 18.4 (1.7) 20.6 (2.0) 14.3 (1.2) 20.4 (2.1) 20.2 (2.6) 13.5 (1.7) 16.3 (1.8) 20.9 (2.0)

– – – Data not available. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 1963–1965 and 1966–1970 did not include children aged 2–5 years.
* Estimate has a confidence interval width between 5 and 30 and a relative confidence interval width greater than 130% and does not meet standards of reliability or precision; see “National Center for Health Statistics Data Presentation Standards for Proportions“.
1Excludes pregnant females starting with 1971–1974. Pregnancy status not available for 1963–1965 and 1966–1970.
2Data are for adolescents aged 12–17 years, not 12–19 years.
NOTE: Obesity is body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile from the sex-specific BMI-for-age 2000 CDC Growth Charts.
SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Table 3. Prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 2–19 years, by sex and race and Hispanic origin: United States, 1988–1994 through 2015–2016

Survey period Percent (standard error)
Boys Girls1
Non-Hispanic Hispanic Mexican American Non-Hispanic Hispanic Mexican American
white black Asian white black Asian
1988–1994
9.7 (1.1) 10.6 (0.8) – – – – – – 14.8 (1.4) 8.6 (1.1) 14.5 (1.1) – – – – – – 13.8 (1.9)
1999–2000 10.9 (1.5) 16.4 (1.2) – – – – – – 23.5 (1.5) 11.1 (1.8) 21.4 (1.4) – – – – – – 16.8 (1.9)
2001–2002 15.0 (1.5) 15.5 (1.3) – – – – – – 22.0 (1.3) 12.7 (1.9) 19.5 (1.3) – – – – – – 17.0 (1.9)
2003–2004 17.8 (2.2) 16.4 (1.5) – – – – – – 22.0 (1.6) 14.9 (1.9) 23.8 (1.4) – – – – – – 16.1 (2.3)
2005–2006 13.4 (1.9) 18.3 (1.3) – – – – – – 24.3 (2.7) 12.2 (2.2) 24.4 (2.2) – – – – – – 20.6 (1.6)
2007–2008 15.6 (1.9) 17.3 (2.2) – – – 24.5 (1.7) 24.9 (2.3) 14.9 (2.5) 22.8 (2.4) – – – 17.3 (1.7) 16.6 (2.5)
2009–2010 16.1 (1.8) 24.3 (2.8) – – – 23.4 (1.4) 24.0 (1.7) 11.7 (1.1) 24.3 (2.6) – – – 18.9 (1.8) 18.2 (2.5)
2011–2012 12.6 (2.4) 19.9 (1.1) 11.5 (2.1) 24.1 (1.4) 24.2 (1.5) 15.6 (2.1) 20.5 (3.1) *5.6 (2.4) 20.6 (1.5) 21.1 (1.7)
2013–2014 15.9 (2.0) 16.8 (1.9) 12.1 (3.0) 20.6 (2.0) 19.5 (2.1) 14.6 (2.8) 20.9 (1.6) *5.0 (1.0) 22.1 (2.1) 24.2 (2.8)
2015–2016 14.6 (1.6) 19.0 (2.7) 11.7 (2.2) 28.0 (2.8) 29.2 (2.1) 13.5 (1.4) 25.1 (4.2) 10.1 (2.2) 23.6 (1.8) 24.3 (2.3)

– – – Data not available.
* Estimate has a confidence interval width between 5 and 30 and a relative confidence interval width greater than 130% and does not meet standards of reliability or precision; see “National Center for Health Statistics Data Presentation Standards for Proportions“.
1Excludes pregnant females.
NOTE: Obesity is body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile from the sex-specific BMI-for-age 2000 CDC Growth Charts.
SOURCE: 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 US children and adolescents, 2003–2006. JAMA 299(20):2401–5. 2008.
  • 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.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011–2012. JAMA 311(8):806–14. 2014.
  • Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Lawman HG, Fryar CD, Kruszon-Moran D, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Trends in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States, 1988–1994 through 2013–2014. JAMA 315(21):2292–9. 2016.
  • Hales CM, Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Freedman DS, Ogden CL. Trends in obesity and severe obesity prevalence in US youth and adults by sex and age, 2007–2008 to 2015–2016. JAMA 319(16):1723–5. 2018.

 

This Health E-Stat supersedes the earlier version, “Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents Aged 2–19 Years: United States, 1963–1965 Through 2013–2014”.

  • Page last reviewed: September 5, 2018
  • Page last updated: September 5, 2018
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