Obesity Trends - United States Children and Adolescents
The trend towards overweight in adults is mirrored in children and adolescents. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal a disturbing increase in t he percent of children who are overweight*. Data from NHANES I (1971–1974) to NHANES 2003–2006 show increases in overweight among all age groups:
Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States, 2011-2014
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States putting kids at risk for poor health. Despite recent declines in the prevalence among preschool-aged children, obesity amongst all children is still too high.
In 2011-2014 For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years1:
- The prevalence of obesity has remained fairly stable at about 17% and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents.
- The prevalence of obesity was higher among Hispanics (21.9%) and non-Hispanic blacks (19.5%) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.7%).
- 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.
- The prevalence of obesity was 8.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds compared with 17.5% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain populations.
1Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief [PDF-705KB]
The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 9.4% in 2013-2014.2
For more details about the “Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents in the United States”, visit: www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity and see “obesity trends” section.
*overweight for children is defined as BMI-for-age at or above the 95th percentile of the Centers for Disease Control Growth Charts.
Obesity Trends - United States Adults
During the past 25 years there has been a dramatic and alarming rise in obesity in the United States. Obesity is defined as having a very high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. We fall in the obese category if our body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. BMI is one tool for evaluating our weight in relation to our height. A high BMI indicates a greater risk for weight related problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. See below for more information on BMI. State prevalence of obesity remained high across the country in 2015.
OBESITY PREVALENCE IN 2015 VARIES ACROSS STATES AND TERRITORIES
- No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
- In 6 states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, and Utah) and the District of Columbia, obesity ranged from 20% to less than 25%.
- 19 states and Puerto Rico had a prevalence of obesity between 25% and less than 30%.
- Obesity prevalence in 21 states and Guam was 30% to less than 35%.
- Four states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia) had an obesity prevalence of 35% or greater.
- The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (31.2%), followed by the Midwest (30.7%), the Northeast (26.4%), and the West (25.2%).
Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State and Territory BRFSS, 2015
Prevalence estimates reflect BRFSS methodological changes started in 2011. These estimates should not be compared to prevalence estimates before 2011.
Obesity Prevalence in 2012 Varies Across States and Regions
- By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.5% in Colorado to 34.7% in Louisiana in 2012. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Nine states and the District of Columbia had prevalence between 20-25%. Thirteen (13) states (Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had a prevalence equal to or greater than 30%.
- Higher prevalences of adult obesity were found in the Midwest (29.5%) and the South (29.4%). Lower prevalences were observed in the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (25.1%).
- View CDC presentation (pdf)
Obesity Prevalence in 2011 Varies Across States and Regions
- By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
- The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (29.5%), followed by the Midwest (29.0%), the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (24.3%).
- View CDC presentation (pdf)
New Baseline Established in 2011 for State Obesity Rates
- Changes to the CDC’s BRFSS and to exclusion criteria result in a new baseline for estimated state adult obesity prevalence starting with the 2011 data. Because of these changes, estimates of obesity prevalence from 2011 forward cannot be compared to estimates from previous years.
- Shifts in estimates from previous years may be the results of the new methods, rather than measurable changes in the percentages. The direction and magnitude of changes in each state varies. These variations may depend on the characteristics of the population.
- State prevalence of obesity remained high across the country in 2011.
The History of State Obesity Prevalence
- State prevalence prior to 2011 is provided for historical information only. Historical rates should not be compared to 2011 state obesity prevalence due to changes in survey methods.
- The maps below indicate the history of United States obesity prevalence from 1990 through 2010.
The data shown in the maps above were collected through CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Each year, state health departments collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults.
- No state met the nation's Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15%. Rather, in 2010, there were 12 states with an obesity prevalence of 30%. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
- In 1990, among states participating in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 10 states had a prevalence of obesity less than 10% and no states had prevalence equal to or greater than 15%.
- In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.
To learn more about causes of overweight and obesity, differences in prevalence of obesity by race, health and economic consequences, and recommendations, go to www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity.
A powerpoint file with charts for all years can be downloaded from
Obesity is common, serious and costly
- More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
What is BMI?
Here’s some more information about how to calculate body mass index or BMI. We can use the formula below or go to the BMI calculator at: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm
BMI = weight (lbs) X 703 / height (inches) ²
In most cases, BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat. However, there are some limitations because the BMI formula uses total body weight and doesn’t differentiate between what is muscle weight and fat weight. For this reason, BMI may:
- Overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build.
- Underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle mass.
Looking at BMI alone doesn ’t determine if our weight is healthy. We need to consider the location and amount of body fat we carry as well as our family history of health problems.
What is Diabetes?
Learn about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the signs and symptoms of diabetes, and the complications of diabetes at the American Diabetes Association web site. Go to site.
National Diabetes Surveillance System
Diabetes is becoming more common in the United States. From 1980 through 2006, the number of Americans with diabetes tripled (from 5.6 million to 16.8 million). As the detailed tables show, people aged 65 years or older account for approximately 37% of the population with diabetes. Get the facts at the CDC web site. Go to site.
California Healthy Kids Survey and Youth Risk Behavior Survey
The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) provide information on the prevalence of behaviors practiced by young people that put their health at risk.
Both surveys include content on unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity.
Data results give information on overall district trends and are used in program planning and professional development.
Both the YRBS and CHKS were administered in 2011 and results are summarized in the results document.
The San Francisco Unified School District, in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Education, administers the YRBS in grades 6-12, and the CHKS in grades 5, 7, 9 & 11.
For more information regarding CHKS or YRBS see our program description or CHKS & YRBS Survey information at the Student Support Services site or the following links:
The FITNESSGRAM is the State of California mandated physical fitness assessment given to students in grades 5, 7, and 9. Results determine if a student falls within the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) for six individual tests as a measure of overall fitness.
The battery of tests include:
- Mile Run or PACER which tests for aerobic capacity
- Push-Up, Curl-Up, Trunk Lift, and Back Saver Sit and Reach which tests for muscular strength, endurance and flexibility
- Skinfold Measurement or Body Mass Index (BMI) which determines body composition (BMI is determined in a formula that represents a relationship between height and weight.)
A student who falls within the Healthy Fitness Zone for all six tests may be considered “fit overall.” The results can be used to develop an individual fitness plan for each individual student to maintain lifelong wellness.
SFUSD RESULTS 2015-16
The table below shows how SFUSD students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 fared under the 2010-11 through 2015-16 FITNESSGRAM testing.
Physical Fitness Area%
Number of Physical Fitness Areas Meeting the Healthy Fitness Zone%
Grade 5 %
Grade 7 %
6 of 6 (Fit Overall):2015-1622.2 31.9 33.0
2014-1524.3 32.3 35.6
2013-1421.3 31.6 31.7
2012-1321.2 33.2 33.0
2011-1221.6 32.9 33.9
2010-1120.3 30.4 34.8
Number of students tested:
- 2015-16: Grade 5—4,014; Grade 7—3,372; Grade 9—3,274
- 2014-15: Grade 5—3,730; Grade 7—3,293; Grade 9—3,645
- 2013-14: Grade 5—3,731; Grade 7—3,528; Grade 9—3,526
- 2012-13: Grade 5—3,839; Grade 7—3,519; Grade 9—3,505
- 2011-12: Grade 5—3,843; Grade 7—3,463; Grade 9—3,791
- 2010-11: Grade 5—3,896; Grade 7—3,498; Grade 9—3,957
Additional information can be found at the California Department of Education Physical Fitness Test Web page.
NEW STANDARDS INTRODUCED in 2010-11
Beginning in the year 2010, new standards were incoporated into the testing structure in the Healthy Fitness Zone areas of body compostition and aerobic capacity. Learn more about these changes by following the links below.
Specific information about the Fitnessgram body composition Healthy Fitness Zone® standards
- What is body composition and how is it linked to health?
- What are the changes to the body composition standards?
- How different are the new body composition Healthy Fitness Zone standards from the previous standards?
- The previous HFZ for Percent Body Fat (%BF) were set at a consistent cut-off of 25% for boys and a consistent cut-off of 32% for girls. The new standards now vary by both gender and age. These standards reflect the natural developmental trends for boys to gain muscle and girls to gain fat through adolescence as well as health risk. See the chart below.
Previous %BF standards:
New % BF standards:
Varies by age
18.9% - 22.3%
Varies by age
20.9% - 31.4%
Specific information about the Fitnessgram aerobic capacity Healthy Fitness Zone® standards
SFUSD RESULTS IN PREVIOUS YEARS
Note: These results were under the old standards for body composition and aerobic ability.
% Considered to be at a Healthy Weight *
*Not underweight or overweight
For more information see the FITNESSGRAM section in Data & Statistics at Student Support Services or the following links.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- For information about the FITNESSGRAM assessment see www.cooperinst.org
- View results for SFUSD at the California Department of Education (CDE) website. Use Data Quest (Subject: Test scores - Physical Fitness Test) at the CDE to find results for other districts or schools.
- 14-15 results for SFUSD (new testing structure)
- 13-14 results for SFUSD (new testing structure)
- 12-13 results for SFUSD (new testing structure)
- 11-12 results for SFUSD (new testing structure)
- 10-11 results for SFUSD (new testing structure)
- 09-10 results for SFUSD
- 08-09 results for SFUSD
- 07-08 results for SFUSD
- 06-07 results for SFUSD
This page was last updated on March 5, 2021