NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Teens are Living on Fat Street

January 6, 2004

Teenagers in the United States have higher rates of obesity than those in 13 other industrialized countries, a study of nearly 30,000 youngsters ages 13 and 15 found. The study, published in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, by Danish researchers is based on school questionnaires given to youngsters in the 15 countries in 1997 and 1998.

Among the findings:

  • Of American 15-year-olds, 15 percent of girls and 14 percent of boys were obese, and 31 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys were more modestly overweight.
  • Countries with teen weight problems nearly as great were Greece, Portugal, Israel, Ireland and Denmark.
  • U.S. teens were more likely than those in other countries to consume fast food, snacks and sugary sodas and were more likely to be driven to school and other activities, contributing to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Lithuania had the lowest obesity rates. Among Lithuanian 15-year-olds, 2 percent of girls and 0.8 percent of boys were obese, and 8 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys were overweight. That is probably because Lithuania has fewer fast-food restaurants and its teens have less money for snacks and fast food, says co-author Mary Overpeck of the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

The World Health Organization last year said obesity is no longer mostly an American problem but is an increasing concern in Europe and other developed nations because people are abandoning traditional dietary habits and adopting more sedentary lifestyles.

Source: Associated Press, "U.S. teens lead 14 industrialized nations in obesity, study says

Survey of 15-year-olds finds they're more likely to lead sedentary lives," Dallas Morning News, January 6, 2003.


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