How obesity and related conditions are skyrocketing
Children are struggling with obesity more than ever before, and a new study has the numbers to prove it.
According to a new report from the not-for-profit FAIR Health, both obesity and diabetes mellitus are increasing in the pediatric population, putting kids at risk for a host of other obesity-related conditions.
FAIR Health researchers reviewed 5 years of health insurance claims data from 2011 to 2015 to identify trends in obesity and diabetes among the nation’s insured children and adolescents. The organization found that both obesity and diabetes claims increased annually during the study period. Diabetes diagnoses more than doubled in individuals from birth to age 22 years over the study period, increasing a total of 109%.
Obesity increased by 191% overall for young persons aged 0 to 22 years during the 2011 to 2015 study period. The smallest increase was among children aged 3 to 5 years at 45%, while adolescents and young adults aged 19 to 22 years saw the highest increase at 154%. According to researchers, the problem gets worse with age—every age group above 5 years had a larger percentage increase in obesity than the age group before it.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that obesity prevalence is fairly stable over the years for children and adolescents, but the FAIR Health report notes that CDC’s data are based on interview and physical examinations of a cross-section of US citizens rather than on actual insurance claims. Both sets of data do, however, show an increase in obesity prevalence as children age.
As far as gender correlations, the FAIR Health study revealed that females were diagnosed with obesity more often in early and late childhood than males.
“The only exception was the middle school age group (children aged 10 to 13 years), in which the diagnosis appeared in claims for both males and females at approximately the same rate,” the report states. “Afterward, beginning in early high school (adolescents aged 14 to 16 years), the rate of female obesity compared with male obesity increased continuously until college age (young adults aged 19 to 22 years).”
By college, obesity rates mirrored that of adults—72% in females and 28% in males, according to the report. However, because the study is based on claims data, the researchers clarified that the results are unclear as to whether the rates meant that more females were obese, or whether more females sought treatment for their obesity than males.
“If the latter is true, it raises the question whether the greater cultural significance placed on female rather than male thinness might be a factor,” researchers state.
The CDC found a difference in obesity rates among males and females in adults, but not in children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years. Other studies, however, have found similar differences in obesity rates based on gender.
Females were more frequently diagnosed with obesity in the study, but males were more often diagnosed with diabetes.
The connection between obesity and diabetes is not new, but the researchers quantified the trend in this new report. Diabetes mellitus, a form of the disease typically driven by lifestyle and diet, has traditionally been an adult disease but its prevalence among children and teenagers has been increasing over the last 20 years, with diagnoses among 10- to 19-year-olds increasing 35% between 2001 and 2009 alone.