Average Weight for Americans Growing Heavier

Adults Are Almost 25 Pounds Heavier than 40 Years Ago, says CDC

Oct. 27, 2004 -- If you could go back in time to 1960, you might notice that men, women, and children were a bit shorter then and had a lower average weight than today.

Americans of all ages are "dramatically" heavier and slightly taller than they were back then, according to the CDC.

"On average, both men and women gained more than 24 pounds between the early 1960s and 2002," says the CDC in its report, Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, United States 1960-2002.

The CDC identified trends in national estimates of average weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). The data came from the National Health Examination and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which were conducted between 1960 and 2002.

Average Weight, Height on the Rise

Average weight increased for everyone regardless of age, sex, and racial/ethnic groups.

In people older than 20, both men and women were a little more than 24 pounds heavier than in the early 1960s. By 2002, average weight for men was almost 191 pounds; for women, average weight was 163 pounds.

Children also gained weight.

Kids aged 6-11 are almost 9 pounds heavier, with an average weight of almost 74 pounds in 1999-2002. Teen boys aged 12-17 are heavier by more than 15 pounds, with an average weight of 141 pounds in 2002. Teen girls in the same age bracket were about 12 pounds heavier, tipping the scales in 2002 at 130 pounds.

Taller Trend

Americans are a bit taller than in the past, but not enough to explain the extra weight.

Adult men and women are both about 1 inch taller than in the early 1960s. Kids and teens of both sexes grew less than 1 inch in average height.

Height and weight are factored into body mass index (BMI). The CDC says BMI trends confirm that Americans became heftier over the last four decades.

"Between the early 1960s and 1999-2002, mean BMI for men [aged] 20-74 increased from just over 25 to almost 28. Similarly, for women mean BMI increased from almost 25 to just over 28," says the CDC.

Those current numbers are considered overweight but not obese.

A BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is normal. A BMI of 25-29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is obese.

Reversing the Trend

The CDC's report doesn't address the reasons why the average weight of Americans has increased. The study presents the cold, hard numbers without pointing fingers at specific diets, exercise habits, or lifestyles.

The ballooning numbers on the scale may be all too familiar to many people. If it's any consolation, the CDC's data show that plenty of people are in the same boat.

However, change is possible. If you're motivated to buck the national trend, health care providers should be able to get you started on a safe, sensible, food and fitness program.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CDC, Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index, United States 1960-2002. News release, CDC. WebMD Health Tools: "Body Mass Index Calculator."
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