Overweight and obese youth (self-reported), 2014

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Excess weight in childhood has been linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, poor emotional health, and diminished social well-being. As well, obese children tend to become obese adults, making childhood obesity a public health concern.Note 1

Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure that examines weight in relation to height is a tool used to evaluate whether a person is a healthy weight. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters.  

The Canadian Community Health Survey has used the Cole classification system since 2005 for the youth body mass index indicator.  This classification is based on pooled international data and classifies children aged 12 to 17 as "obese", "overweight" or "neither obese nor overweight" according to age-and-sex specific BMI cut-off points (Table 1).Note 2

Table 1
Body mass index (BMI) ranges for overweight and obese for selected ages, by sex (Cole classification system)
Table summary
This table displays the results of Table 1 Body mass index (BMI) ranges for overweight and obese for selected ages. The information is grouped by Sex (appearing as row headers), Age in years (rounded to nearest 0.5), Overweight† for
BMI range: and Obese†† for
BMI range: (appearing as column headers).
Sex Age in years (rounded to nearest 0.5) OverweightNote  for
BMI range:
ObeseNote †† for
BMI range:
Boys 12 21.22 to less than 26.02 26.02 or higher
13.5 22.27 to less than 27.25 27.25 or higher
15 23.29 to less than 28.30 28.30 or higher
16.5 24.19 to less than 29.14 29.14 or higher
Girls 12 21.68 to less than 26.67 26.67 or higher
13.5 22.98 to less than 28.20 28.20 or higher
15 23.94 to less than 29.11 29.11 or higher
16.5 24.54 to less than 29.56 29.56 or higher

In 2014, 6.2% of Canadians aged 12-17, roughly 125,000 youths, reported height and weight that classified them as obese. The percentage of those who were overweight was 16.9%, or roughly 343,000 youths. Combined, roughly one in four youths (23.1%) aged 12-17 was overweight or obese in 2014 (Chart 1).

The proportion of youths with excess weight, either obese or overweight, was about the same as in 2013.  However, it is a significant increase from 19.4% in 2005 (Chart 1).

Chart 1

Description for chart 1

Between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of boys who were classified as overweight or obese has been higher than that for girls. In 2014, the percentage with excess weight was 28.5% for boys and 16.9% for girls (Chart 2).

Chart 2

Description for chart 2

Having excess weight did not have an effect on the reported physical activity of youths in 2014.  Of the 12-17 year olds who were overweight or obese, 70.2% reported being at least moderately physically active in leisure time. This was not significantly different from the 73.9% of youths who were not overweight or obese.Note 3 ‘Moderately active’ would be equivalent to walking at least 30 minutes a day or taking an hour-long exercise class at least three times a week.

While there was no difference in levels of activity, there was a significant difference in self-perceived health. This is a self-reported measure that reflects not only a lack of disease or injury, but also an overall physical, mental and social well-being. Among those youth who were overweight or obese, only 56.6% reported very good or excellent overall health, compared to 74.9% of youths who did not have excess weight.



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Additional data from the Canadian Community Health Survey are available from CANSIM table 105–0501.

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