Childhood Obesity

  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.

Long-term health effects

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore, more at risk for adult health problems, such as, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Tips on keeping kids healthy

  • Give kids a nutritious breakfast every day
  • Let kids help with the cooking. They are more than likely to taste what they helped prepare
  • Introduce new veggies more than once. Sometimes, it takes a few tries.
  • Plan at least one family meal a day to reinforce the message of good eating habits and build stronger relationships
  • Give kids health options and let them pick

Prevention

  • Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
  • The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
  • Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.

Childhood Obesity Figures

Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Despite recent declines in the prevalence among preschool-aged children, obesity among children is still too high. For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at about 17% and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents for the past decade.

Approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese

  • The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 8.4% in 2011-2012.

    In 2011-2012, 8.4% of 2- to 5-year-olds had obesity compared with 17.7% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds.Childhood obesity is also more common among certain racial and ethnic groups.

  • In 2011-2012, the prevalence among children and adolescents was higher among Hispanics (22.4%) and non-Hispanic blacks (20.2%) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.1%).
  • The prevalence of obesity was lower in non-Hispanic Asian youth (8.6%) than in youth who were non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic.

Note: In children and adolescents age 2 to 19 years, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts.

Childhood obesity is associated with adult head of household’s education level for some children

  • Obesity prevalence differs among racial/ethnic groups and also varies by age, sex, and adult head of household’s and education level.
  • Overall, obesity prevalence among children whose adult head of household completed college was approximately half that of those whose adult head of household did not complete high school (9% vs 19% among girls; 11% vs 21% among boys) in 1999–2010.
  • Among non-Hispanic white children, the lowest prevalence of obesity was observed among those whose adult head of household completed college; however, this was not the case for non-Hispanic black children.
  • Over time, the prevalence of obesity among girls whose adult head of household had not finished high school increased from 17% (1999–2002) to 23% (2007–2010), but decreased for girls whose adult head of household completed college from 11% (1999–2002) to 7% (2007–2010). There was not a similar finding among boys.

Childhood obesity among preschoolers is more prevalent among those from lower-income families

  • The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2–4 years from low-income households in 2011 varied by levels of income-to-poverty ratio, which is a measure of household income.
  • Obesity prevalence was the highest among children in families with an income-to-poverty ratio of 100% or less (household income that is at or below the poverty threshold), followed by those in families with an income-to-poverty ratio of 101%–130%, and then found to be lower in children in families with an income-to-poverty ratio of 131% or larger (greater household income).