Overweight and obese youth (self-reported), 2013

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 2001 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 (Charts 1.1 & 1.2).Note 2

Chart 1.1

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Chart 1.2

Description for Chart 1.2

In 2013, 5.0% of Canadians aged 12-17, roughly 102,000 youths, reported height and weight that classified them as obese. The percentage of those who were overweight was 15.7%, or roughly 320,000 youths. Combined, roughly one in five youths aged 12-17 was overweight or obese in 2013 (Chart 2).

The proportion of youths with excess weight, either obese or overweight, has remained relatively stable since 2008.  However, it is a significant increase from 18.7% in 2007 (Chart 2).

When those who were classified as obese were combined with those who were overweight, 20.7% of youths had an increased risk because of excess weight.

Chart 2

Description for Chart 2

Having excess weight did not have an effect on the reported physical activity of youths in 2013.  Of the 12-17 year olds who were overweight or obese, 70.9% reported being physically active or moderately active in leisure time.  This was not significantly different from the 75.0% 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.

World Health Organization classificationNote 4 gives higher level of obese youth in 2013

A new classification for overweight and obese youths has been added to the Canadian Community Health Survey files as of 2013. This new classification is based on BMI thresholds used by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The thresholds for the WHO classification are also based on pooled dataNote 5, but are lower than those used under the Cole classification system. The lower thresholds of this classification result in more youths classified as overweight or obese. The WHO classification also has an additional category; obese youth are classified as either obese or severely obese (Charts 3.1 & 3.2).

Chart 3.1

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Chart 3.2

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In 2013, 477,633 (23.4%) youths aged 12-17 were considered to have excess weight under the WHO classification, significantly higher than the 421,350 (20.7%) under the Cole classification.

 The proportion of youth classified as overweight is similar for both classifications; approximately 15%. However, using the WHO classification, 9.0% of 12-17 year olds are obese, significantly higher than the 5.0% using the Cole classification (Chart 4).

Under the WHO classification, youths in the obese category can be further broken down into those who are severely obese.  In 2013, 5.0% of youths were obese and 4.0% were severely obese (Chart 4).

Chart 4

Description for Chart 4

Under the WHO classification, the proportion of youths who were obese has been relatively stable since 2005. However, the proportion of obese youth was significantly higher in 2013 (9.0%) than in 2008 (7.4%).  The proportion of overweight youths was not significantly different in 2013 from any previous year (Chart 5).

Chart 5

Description for Chart 5

End notes


Connor Gorber, Sarah, Margot Shields, Mark S.Tremblay and Ian McDowell. 2008. “The feasibility of establishing correction factors to adjust self–reported estimates of obesity.” Health Reports. Vol. 19, no. 3. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?lang=eng&catno=82-003-X200800310680 (accessed May 10, 2010).

Garriguet, Didier. 2008. “Obesity and the eating habits of the Aboriginal population.” Health Reports. Vol. 19, no. 1. March. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?lang=eng&catno=82-003-X200800110487 (accessed May 10, 2010).

Le Petit, Christel and Jean–Marie Berthelot. 2006. “Obesity—a growing issue.” Health Reports. Vol. 17, no. 3. June. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 43–50. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2006/9278-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).

Roberts, Karen C, Margot Shields, Margaret de Groh, Alfred Aziz and Jo-Anne Gilbert. 2012. “Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey.” Health Reports. Vol.23, no. 3. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2012003/article/11706-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).

Shields, Margot, Sarah Connor Gorber and Mark S Tremblay. 2008. “Estimates of obesity based on self–report versus direct measures.” Health Reports. Vol. 19, no. 2. June. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?lang=eng&catno=82-003-X200800210569 (accessed May 10, 2010).

Shields, Margot, Sarah Connor Gorber and Mark S. Tremblay. 2008. “Effects of measurement on obesity and morbidity.” Health Reports. Vol. 19, no. 2. June. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2008002/article/10564-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).

Shields, Margot. 2006. “Overweight and obesity among children and youth.” Health Reports. Vol. 17, no. 3. August. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 27–42. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2006/9277-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).

Shields, Margot and Michael Tjepkema. 2006. “Regional differences in obesity.” Health Reports. Vol. 17, no. 3. August. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-003. p. 61–67. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/studies-etudes/82-003/archive/2006/9280-eng.pdf (accessed May 10, 2010).


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

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