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NCHS Data Brief 

  No. 288 

  October 2017

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Center for Health Statistics

Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: 

United States, 2015–2016

Craig M. Hales, M.D., Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H., Cheryl D. Fryar, M.S.P.H., and Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D.

Key findings 

Data from the National 

Health and Nutrition 

Examination Survey

In 2015–2016, the

prevalence of obesity was

39.8% in adults and 18.5% in

youth.

The prevalence of obesity

was higher among middle-aged 

adults (42.8%) than among 

younger adults (35.7%).

The prevalence of obesity

was higher among youth

aged 6–11 years (18.4%)

and adolescents aged 12–19

years (20.6%) compared with

children aged 2–5 years

(13.9%).

The overall prevalence of

obesity was higher among 

non-Hispanic black and 

Hispanic adults than among 

non-Hispanic white and 

non-Hispanic Asian adults. The 

same pattern was seen among 

youth.

The observed change in

prevalence between 2013–2014

and 2015–2016 was not

significant among both adults

and youth.

Obesity is associated with serious health risks (

1

). Monitoring obesity 

prevalence is relevant for public health programs that focus on reducing 

or preventing obesity. Between 2003–2004 and 2013–2014, there were no 

significant changes in childhood obesity prevalence, but adults showed an 

increasing trend (

2

). This report provides the most recent national estimates 

from 2015–2016 on obesity prevalence by sex, age, and race and Hispanic 

origin, and overall estimates from 1999–2000 through 2015–2016. 

Keyword: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

What was the prevalence of obesity in adults in 2015–2016?

The prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults was 39.8% (crude). Overall, the 

prevalence among adults aged 40–59 (42.8%) was higher than among adults 

aged 20–39 (35.7%). No significant difference in prevalence was seen between 

adults aged 60 and over (41.0%) and younger age groups (

Figure 1

). 

Figure 1. Prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by sex and age: United States, 

2015–2016

1

Significantly different from those aged 20–39.

NOTES: Estimates for adults aged 20 and over were age adjusted by the direct method to the 2000 U.S. census population using 

the age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over. Crude estimates are 39.8% for total, 38.0% for men, and 41.5% for women. 

Access data table for Figure 1 at: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288_table.pdf#1

.

SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015–2016.

Percent

20 and over

20–39

40–59

60 and over

Total

Men

Women

50

40

30

20

10

0

35.7

1

42.8 41.0

37.9

34.8

1

40.8

38.5

41.1

36.5

1

44.7 43.1

39.6

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NCHS Data Brief 

  No. 288 

  October 2017

■  2  ■

Among both men and women, the prevalence of obesity followed a similar pattern by age. Men 

aged 40–59 (40.8%) had a higher prevalence of obesity than men aged 20–39 (34.8%). Women 

aged 40–59 (44.7%) had a higher prevalence of obesity than women aged 20–39 (36.5%). For  

both men and women, the prevalence of obesity among those aged 60 and over was not 

significantly different from the prevalence among those aged 20–39 or 40–59.

There was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity between men and women overall 

or by age group.

Were there differences in the prevalence of obesity among adults by race 

and Hispanic origin in 2015–2016? 

The prevalence of obesity was lower among non-Hispanic Asian adults (12.7%) compared with 

all other race and Hispanic-origin groups. Hispanic (47.0%) and non-Hispanic black (46.8%) 

adults had a higher prevalence of obesity than non-Hispanic white adults (37.9%). The pattern 

among women was similar to the pattern in the overall adult population. The prevalence of 

obesity was 38.0% in non-Hispanic white, 54.8% in non-Hispanic black, 14.8% in non-Hispanic 

Asian, and 50.6% in Hispanic women. Among men, the prevalence of obesity was lower in  

non-Hispanic Asian adults (10.1%) compared with non-Hispanic white (37.9%), non-Hispanic 

black (36.9%), and Hispanic (43.1%) men. Non-Hispanic black men had a lower prevalence of 

obesity than Hispanic men, but there was no significant difference between non-Hispanic black 

and non-Hispanic white men (

Figure 2

).

Figure 2. Age-adjusted prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by sex and race and Hispanic origin: 

United States, 2015–2016

1

Significantly different from non-Hispanic Asian persons.

2

Significantly different from non-Hispanic white persons.

3

Significantly different from Hispanic persons.

4

Significantly different from women of same race and Hispanic origin. 

NOTES: All estimates are age adjusted by the direct method to the 2000 U.S. census population using the age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over. Access 

data table for Figure 2 at: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288_table.pdf#2

SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015–2016.

Percent

Non-Hispanic white

Non-Hispanic black

Non-Hispanic Asian

Hispanic

60

50

40

30

Total

Men

Women

20

10

0

1

37.9

1,2

46.8

12.7

1,2

47.0

1

37.9

1,3,4

36.9

4

10.1

1,4

43.1

1

38.0

1,2

54.8

14.8

1,2

50.6

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  October 2017

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Among non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic adults, women had a higher 

prevalence of obesity than men. There was no significant difference in prevalence between 

 

non-Hispanic white men and women.

What was the prevalence of obesity among youth aged 2–19 years in  

2015–2016? 

The prevalence of obesity among U.S. youth was 18.5% in 2015–2016. Overall, the prevalence of 

obesity among adolescents (12–19 years) (20.6%) and school-aged children (6–11 years) (18.4%) 

was higher than among preschool-aged children (2–5 years) (13.9%). School-aged boys (20.4%) 

had a higher prevalence of obesity than preschool-aged boys (14.3%). Adolescent girls (20.9%) 

had a higher prevalence of obesity than preschool-aged girls (13.5%) (

Figure 3

).

There was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity between boys and girls overall or 

by age group.

Figure 3. Prevalence of obesity among youth aged 2–19 years, by sex and age: United States, 2015–2016

1

Significantly different from those aged 2–5 years.

NOTE: Access data table for Figure 3 at: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288_table.pdf#3

SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015–2016.

Percent

2–19 years

2–5 years

6–11 years

12–19 years

30 

20

15

10

Total

Boys

Girls

5

0

18.5

13.9

1

18.4

1

20.6

19.1

14.3

1

20.4 20.2

17.8

13.5

16.3

1

20.9

25 

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Were there differences in the prevalence of obesity among youth aged 2–19 

years by race and Hispanic origin in 2015–2016? 

The prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic black (22.0%) and Hispanic (25.8%) youth was 

higher than among both non-Hispanic white (14.1%) and non-Hispanic Asian (11.0%) youth. 

There were no significant differences in the prevalence of obesity between non-Hispanic white 

and non-Hispanic Asian youth or between non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youth. The pattern 

among girls was similar to the pattern in all youth. The prevalence of obesity was 25.1% in  

non-Hispanic black, 23.6% in Hispanic, 13.5% in non-Hispanic white, and 10.1% in  

non-Hispanic Asian girls. The pattern among boys was similar to the pattern in all youth, except 

Hispanic boys (28.0%) had a higher prevalence of obesity than non-Hispanic black boys (19.0%) 

(

Figure 4

).

There were no significant differences in the prevalence of obesity between boys and girls by race 

and Hispanic origin.

Figure 4. Prevalence of obesity among youth aged 2–19 years, by sex and race and Hispanic origin: United States, 

2015–2016

1

Significantly different from non-Hispanic Asian persons.

2

Significantly different from non-Hispanic white persons.

3

Significantly different from non-Hispanic black persons.

NOTE: Access data table for Figure 4 at: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288_table.pdf#4

SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015–2016.

Percent

Non-Hispanic white

Non-Hispanic black

Non-Hispanic Asian

Hispanic

30 

25

20

15

Total

Boys

Girls

10

5

0

14.1

1,2

22.0

11.0

1,2

25.8

14.6

19.0

11.7

1–3

28.0

13.5

1,2

25.1

10.1

1,2

23.6

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NCHS Data Brief 

  No. 288 

  October 2017

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What are the trends in adult and childhood obesity?

From 1999–2000 through 2015–2016, a significantly increasing trend in obesity was observed in 

both adults and youth. The observed change in prevalence between 2013–2014 and 2015–2016, 

however, was not significant among both adults and youth (

Figure 5

).

Figure 5. Trends in obesity prevalence among adults aged 20 and over (age adjusted) and youth aged 2–19 years: 

United States, 1999–2000 through 2015–2016

1

Significant increasing linear trend from 1999–2000 through 2015–2016.

NOTES: All estimates for adults are age adjusted by the direct method to the 2000 U.S. census population using the age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over. 

Access data table for Figure 5 at: 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288_table.pdf#5

SOURCE: NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2016.

Percent

Survey years

40

30

20

0

10

1999–

2000

2001–

2002

2003–

2004

2005–

2006

2007–

2008

2009–

2010

2011–

2012

2013–

2014

2015–

2016

30.5

13.9

30.5

15.4

32.2

Adults

1

Youth

1

17.1

34.3

15.4

33.7

16.8

35.7

16.9

34.9

16.9

37.7

17.2

39.6

18.5

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Summary

The prevalence of obesity was 39.8% among adults and 18.5% among youth in the United States 

in 2015–2016. The prevalence of obesity was higher among adults aged 40–59 than among adults 

aged 20–39 overall and in both men and women. Among youth, the prevalence of obesity among 

those aged 2–5 years was lower compared with older children, and this pattern was seen in both 

boys and girls.

Women had a higher prevalence of obesity than men among non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic 

Asian, and Hispanic adults, but not among non-Hispanic white adults. Among youth, there was no 

significant difference in obesity prevalence between boys and girls of the same race and Hispanic 

origin. 

Overall, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic adults and youth had a higher prevalence of obesity 

compared with other race and Hispanic-origin groups. Obesity prevalence was lower among  

non-Hispanic Asian men and women compared with other race and Hispanic-origin groups. 

Among men, obesity prevalence was similar between non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic 

white men, but obesity prevalence was higher among Hispanic men compared with non-Hispanic 

black men. For women, obesity prevalence was similar among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic 

women, and both groups had a higher prevalence of obesity than non-Hispanic white women. 

Among youth, obesity prevalence among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic youth was higher than 

both non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Asian youth. This pattern was similar among boys and 

girls, except Hispanic boys had a higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic black boys. 

Obesity prevalence increased in both adults and youth during the 18 years between 1999–2000 

and 2015–2016. Previous analyses showed no change in prevalence among youth between  

2003–2004 and 2013–2014 (

2

). In addition, the observed increase in prevalence between  

2013–2014 and 2015–2016 was not significant among youth or adults.

Obesity is defined using cut points of body mass index (BMI). BMI does not measure body fat 

directly, and the relationship between BMI and body fat varies by sex, age, and race and Hispanic 

origin (

3

,

4

). Morbidity and mortality risk may vary between different race and Hispanic-origin 

groups at the same BMI. Among some Asian subgroups, risk may begin to increase at a lower 

BMI compared with other race and Hispanic-origin groups, although study results have varied 

(

5

,

6

). 

The definition of obesity is based on BMI for both youth and adults, but the definitions are not 

directly comparable. Among adults, there is a set cut point based on health risk, while among 

children, the definition is statistical and is based on a comparison to a reference population (

7

). 

The prevalence of obesity in the United States remains higher than the Healthy People 2020 goals 

of 14.5% among youth and 30.5% among adults (

8

). 

Definition

Obesity: BMI was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, rounded 

to one decimal place. Obesity in adults was defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to 30. 

Obesity in youth was defined as a BMI of greater than or equal to the age- and sex-specific 95th 

percentile of the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts (

7

). 

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NCHS Data Brief 

  No. 288 

  October 2017

■  7  ■

Data source and methods

Data from nine 2-year cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 

(NHANES) (1999–2000, 2001–2002, 2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2007–2008, 2009–2010,  

2011–2012, 2013–2014, and 2015–2016) were used for these analyses. Data from NHANES 

2015–2016 were used to test differences between subgroups. This 2-year NHANES survey cycle 

provides the most recent estimates of obesity. However, the precision of the estimated prevalence 

of obesity and the ability to detect differences in the prevalence when a difference does exist are 

lower than when estimates are based on 4 years of data because of the smaller sample sizes. In 

testing for trends in obesity, orthogonal contrasts were used with the nine 2-year cycles.

NHANES is a cross-sectional survey designed to monitor the health and nutritional status of the 

civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population (

9

). The survey consists of interviews conducted 

in participants’ homes and standardized physical examinations, including measured height and 

weight, in mobile examination centers.

The NHANES sample is selected through a complex, multistage probability design. Starting in 

2011, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic persons, among other groups, were 

oversampled to obtain reliable estimates for these population subgroups. Race- and Hispanic 

origin-specific estimates reflect individuals reporting only one race; those reporting more than one 

race are included in the total but are not reported separately. 

Examination sample weights, which account for the differential probabilities of selection, 

nonresponse, and noncoverage, were incorporated into the estimation process. All variance 

estimates accounted for the complex survey design by using Taylor series linearization. Pregnant 

females were excluded from analyses.

Prevalence estimates for the adult population aged 20 and over were age adjusted using the direct 

method to the 2000 projected U.S. census population using the age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 

60 and over. Differences between groups were tested using a univariate 

t

 statistic at the 

< 0.05 

significance level. All differences reported are statistically significant unless otherwise indicated. 

Adjustments were not made for multiple comparisons. Data management and statistical analyses 

were conducted using SAS System for Windows version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, N.C.), 

SUDAAN version 11.0 (RTI International, Research Triangle Park, N.C.), and R version 3.4.1  

(R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria), including the R survey package (

10

) to 

account for the complex sample design.

About the authors

Craig M. Hales, Margaret D. Carroll, Cheryl D. Fryar, and Cynthia L. Ogden are with the 

National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

References

1.  National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Clinical guidelines 

on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults—The 

evidence report. Obes Res 6(Suppl 2):51S–209S. 1998.

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NCHS Data Brief  

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  October 2017

2.  Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity 

among adults and youth: United States, 2011–2014. NCHS data brief, no 

219. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.
3.  Flegal KM, Ogden CL, Yanovski JA, Freedman DS, Shepherd JA, 

Graubard BI, Borrud LG. High adiposity and high body mass index-for-age 

in U.S. children and adolescents overall and by race-ethnic group. Am J Clin 

Nutr 91(4):1020–6. 2010.
4. 

Deurenberg P, Deurenberg-Yap M, Guricci S. Asians are different from 

Caucasians and from each other in their body mass index/body fat per cent 

relationship. Obes Rev 3(3):141–6. 2002.
5.  Jafar TH, Islam M, Poulter N, Hatcher J, Schmid CH, Levey AS, 

Chaturvedi N. Children in South Asia have higher body mass-adjusted blood 

pressure levels than white children in the United States: A comparative study. 

Circulation 111(10):1291–7. 2005.
6.  Zheng W, McLerran DF, Rolland B, Zhang X, Inoue M, Matsuo K, et 

al. Association between body-mass index and risk of death in more than 1 

million Asians. N Engl J Med 364(8):719–29. 2011.
7.  Ogden CL, Flegal KM. Changes in terminology for childhood 

overweight and obesity. National health statistics reports; no 25. Hyattsville, 

MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.
8. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease 

Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2020 Topics & Objectives: 

Nutrition and weight status. Available from: 

https://www.healthypeople.

gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/nutrition-and-weight-status

.

9.  Johnson CL, Dohrmann SM, Burt VL, Mohadjer LK. National Health 

and Nutrition Examination Survey: Sample design, 2011–2014. National 

Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 2(162). 2014.
10.  Lumley T. Survey: Analysis of complex survey samples. R package 

(Version 3.32) [computer program]. 2017.

Suggested citation

Hales CM, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Ogden 

CL. Prevalence of obesity among adults and 

youth: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS 

data brief, no 288. Hyattsville, MD: National 

Center for Health Statistics. 2017.

Copyright information

All material appearing in this report is in 

the public domain and may be reproduced 

or copied without permission; citation as to 

source, however, is appreciated.

National Center for Health 

Statistics

Charles J. Rothwell, M.S., M.B.A., 

Director

Jennifer H. Madans, Ph.D., 

Associate 

Director for Science

Division of Health and Nutrition 

Examination Surveys

Kathryn S. Porter, M.D., M.S., 

Director

Ryne Paulose-Ram, Ph.D.

, Associate 

Director for Science

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