Highlights from major national surveys that provide insight about rates and trends across racial and ethnic populations and by age groups and gender.
Recent studies reinforce what we already know: obesity rates are alarmingly high; many populations continue to see steady increases in obesity; and there are striking, persistent racial and ethnic disparities.
According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 18.5% of children and nearly 40% of adults had obesity in 2015–2016. These are the highest rates ever documented by NHANES.
While there were no statistically significant changes in youth or adult rates compared with the previous survey in 2013–2014, rates have increased significantly since 1999–2000, when 13.9% of children and 30.5% of adults had obesity.
Racial and Ethnic Inequities in Obesity
Rates of overweight and obesity have increased across the United States among people of all ethnic and racial groups, ages and genders, but Black and Latino populations continue to have higher rates of obesity than Whites and Asians. This is true among both children and adults.
National Youth Obesity Rates by Race
According to the 2015-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than one in four Latino children ages 2 to 19 had obesity.
Twenty-two percent of Black children ages 2 to 19 had obesity according to the latest NHANES study.
According to the 2015-2016 NHANES study of children ages 2 to 19, White children had a lower prevalence of obesity (14.1%) than Latino or Black children.
National Adult Obesity Rates by Race
According to the 2015-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Latino adults had significantly higher rates of obesity of that White adults.
The NHANES study showed that nearly half (46.8%) of Black adults nationwide had obesity.
According to the 2015-2016 NHANES study, 37.9% of White adults had obesity.
Among youth, Latino boys (28%) and Black girls (25.1%) were most likely to have obesity. Racial and ethnic inequities for adults are largely driven by the differential obesity rates among women: more than half of Black and Latina women (54.8% and 50.6%, respectively) had obesity compared with 38% of White women. In contrast, Latino, White and Black men had similar obesity rates: (43.1%, 37.9% and 36.9%, respectively).
Asian Americans have far lower rates of obesity than any other racial or ethnic group. This is true among adults (12.7%) and children ages 2 to 19 (11%). There is evidence that suggests Asians should have a lower body mass index (BMI) cut-off for obesity than other races/ethnicities since they have higher health risks at a lower BMI.
Age and Gender Differences in Obesity
Among children, the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity generally increases with age. Boys are slightly more likely to have obesity than girls. Among adults, women have slightly higher levels of obesity than men, and middle-age and older adults are more likely to have obesity.
Youth Obesity by Age Group
of children ages 2 to 5 had obesity and nearly 2% had severe obesity.
of children ages 6 to 11 had obesity and 5.2% had severe obesity.
of youth ages 12 to 19 had obesity and 7.7% had severe obesity.
Adult Obesity by Age Group
of adults ages 20 to 39 had obesity and 7.8% had severe obesity.
of adults ages 40 to 59 had obesity and 8.5% had severe obesity.
of adults over age 60 had obesity and 6.3% had severe obesity.
Obesity Rates by Age and Gender
of boys ages 2 to 19 had obesity. This was an 11% increase from 2013-14.
of girls ages 2 to 19 had obesity. This was a 4% increase from 2013-14.
of women age 20 and older had obesity, compared with 37.9% of men.