Since the 1970s, the number of children in the United States with obesity has more than tripled. This means 20% of school-aged children between the ages of 6-19 has obesity, which is defined as having an excess amount of body fat. This is different from being overweight, which is defined as having an excess body weight for a particular height due to a combination of all possible physical factors.
Children who are obese are at a higher risk for having additional chronic health issues and diseases that impact their health. This may include sleep apnea, asthma, bone issues, joint problems, and risk factors for heart disease.
Children who are obese are also more likely to be teased or bullied when compared to their peers who are at a normal weight. This creates a higher risk of depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation.
These childhood obesity statistics prove that this is a subject which must be taken seriously.
Statistics About Childhood Obesity
1. Since 2011, the prevalence of obesity in children aged 2-19 years has remained fairly stable at 17%. This means about 12.7 million children are currently dealing with obesity in the US right now. (CDC)
2. The prevalence of obesity is higher in children as they get older. In 2- to 5-year-olds, the obesity rate is 8.9%. For 6- to 11-year olds, the obesity rate is 17.5%. In the 12- to 19-year-old demographic, obesity rates rise to 20.5%. (CDC)
3. The prevalence of obesity is higher in Hispanics, at 21.9%, than any other group. Non-Hispanic blacks have a prevalence rate of 19.5%, while non-Hispanic whites have a prevalence rate of 14.7%. (CDC)
4. Asian youth have the lowest overall prevalence rates of childhood obesity in the United States at just 8.6%. (CDC)
5. Children with BMI readings that are greater than 40, which is a classification of severe obesity, has increased from 0.9% in 1999 to 2.4% in 2014. (Time Magazine)
6. If current trends continue globally, then there will be an estimated 70 million children who are obese around the world by 2025. (World Health Organization)
7. The vast majority of children who are obese live in developing countries, where the rate of increase globally has been 30% higher than that of developed countries. (World Health Organization)
8. The number of overweight or obese young children, aged 0-5, has increased by 10 million kids since 1990. The African region is responsible for 50% of this increase. (World Health Organization)
9. Children are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of exercise on a daily basis, but 25% of children do not participate in any free-time physical activities. (US Health and Human Services)
10. Boys are more likely to be struggling with obesity than girls. Mexican-Americans struggle with it the most. 28.9% of boys and 18.6% of girls are at least overweight. (American Heart Association)
11. Only non-Hispanic black girls have a higher rate of obesity (24.8%) compared to boys (22.6%). (America Heart Association)
12. A study of more than 7,700 children found that one-third of the children who were overweight in kindergarten were obese by the 8th grade. When the children entered kindergarten, 12.4% were obese and another 14.9% were overweight. By the 8th grade, 20.8% were obese and 17% were overweight. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
13. Kindergarteners who are overweight are 4 times more likely than a child at a healthy weight to become obese before reaching the age of 20. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
14. Obesity in childhood, when combined with the health issues of being overweight, adds an additional $14.1 billion burden on families annually. An obese 10-year-old child will have lifetime medical costs that are $19,000 higher, on average, than a child of the same age at a normal weight. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
15. The average total annual health cost for a child treated for obesity using private insurance is $3,743, while the average cost for treating all children in the same way is just $1,108. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
16. The hospitalizations of children with a diagnosis of obesity nearly doubled between 1999-2005. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
17. Children who grow up in low-income families or neighborhoods are at a higher overall risk of developing obesity and related health problems. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
18. More than 20% of children experience food insecurity in the United States every year. Half of all children under the age of 3 in the United States live in a low-income family. 1 in 4 children live in poverty, and about 7% of US children live in deep poverty. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
19. African-American/Black children are twice as likely as White children to be living in poverty when under the age of 3. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
20. Severe trauma and stress can affect the brain of a child, which increases the chances of obesity occurring. About 1 in 3 children in the US have experienced at least 2+ adverse family experiences. This includes having their parents divorce, the death of a parent or sibling, having a parent be incarcerated, living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, witnessing domesting violence, suffering from racial, gender, or religious discrimination, or living with someone who has a mental illness. These youth have an 80% higher chance of obesity. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
21. 7% of children in the US will experience 4 or more adverse childhood experiences. The number of experiences increases as children age except for poverty, which is reported relatively equally for children of all ages. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
22. More than 50% of US public school students live in poverty, which can contribute to toxic stress, which is a risk factor for obesity. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
23. Children with 4+ adverse childhood events have a 220% greater risk of heart disease than children with zero adverse events. They also have a 240% greater risk of stroke and a 160% greater risk of developing diabetes. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
24. Children with 6 or more adverse childhood experiences could have a lower life expectancy of more than 20 years. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
25. 13.9% of high school students are obese, with an additional 16% being overweight. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
26. 70% of the states with the highest rates of obesity in the United States are in the South. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
Childhood obesity has stabilized and, in some locations, has gone down dramatically. Childhood obesity rates for kids 10- to 17-years-old in Oregon, for example, are just 9.9%. Although severe obesity has been rising, especially in minority groups, and there are still strong racial and gender disparities present, there is hope on the horizon. With meaningful exercise programs, healthy school breakfast and lunch options, and subsidy programs such as WIC available, today’s children can become tomorrow’s healthy adults.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.