The State of Childhood Obesity
After increasing steadily for decades, the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, but it is still alarmingly high compared with to a generation ago. The federal government has several sources that track obesity rates among children and teens, including the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey and three major studies that track national trends and rates within some states. Data from each of these sources is available below. This site also summarizes policies and programs that aim to help children achieve a healthy weight during early childhood, in school and in the broader community.
Use the Select a State option above to view key childhood obesity indicators at the state level.
Obesity rates declined in 31 states and three territories, increased in four states, and remained stable in the rest from 2010 to 2014 among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children). Rates exceeded 15 percent in 18 states and ranged from a low of 8.2 percent in Utah and a high of 20.0 percent in Virginia to in 2014.
Childhood obesity rates have remained at around 17 percent for the past decade. Approximately 14 percent of children (ages 2 to 5) enrolled in WIC were obese. Nearly one-third (31.3 percent) of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. And 13.9 percent of high school students are obese.
High school students are drinking less soda, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent data reveal that among U.S. high school students, 20.4 percent drank soda at least once a day in 2015, down from 27.0 percent in 2013, and 27.8 in 2011.
High school students are spending more recreational time on computers, watching less television, and struggling to get enough physical activity, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2015 data reveal that among U.S. high school students, 41.7 percent used a computer three or more hours a day for fun outside of school work, up from 41.3 percent in 2013, and 31.1 percent in 2011.
According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 13.9 percent of high school students were obese, and an additional 16.0 percent were overweight. State obesity rates among high school students ranged from a low of 10.3 percent in Montana to a high of 18.9 percent in Mississippi, with a median of 13.3 percent.
More than 15 million U.S. children live in "food-insecure" households — having limited access to adequate food and nutrition due to cost, proximity and/or other resources.
Nearly one in four (23.4 percent) women are obese before becoming pregnant — which can increase the risk for a wide range of health complications for the baby and the mother. More than 6 percent (approximately one in 16) of pregnant women have or develop diabetes during pregnancy — known as gestational diabetes.
Around 3.5 percent of U.S. children and teens (ages 2 to 19) are underweight. Combining underweight (3.5 percent) and obese (17 percent) children — 20.5 percent of children have increased health risks due to being an unhealthy weight.
The 2011 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) found obesity rates for children ages 10 to 17 ranged from a low of 9.9 percent in Oregon to a high of 21.7 percent in Mississippi.