Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Childhood obesity: A troubling situation

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Canada is no exception to the trend of growing obesity among children in industrialized countries-a problem primarily associated with poor eating habits and physical inactivity.

The percentage of Canadian children and adolescents who are overweight or obese has climbed considerably over the past 25 years. In 2004, 26% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 17 were overweight or obese based on the body mass index, compared with 15% in 1978/1979. This marks a 70% increase compared with the 1978/1979 levels. The problem is particularly notable among 12- to 17-year-olds, where the combined overweight/obesity proportion more than doubled from 14% to 29%, and the obesity proportion tripled from 3% to 9%.

The 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey indicated that 59% of children and adolescents consumed fruit and vegetables fewer than five times a day. These young people were significantly more likely to be overweight/obese or obese than were those who ate fruit and vegetables more frequently. For children aged 6 to 11 and adolescents aged 12 to 17, the likelihood of being overweight or obese tends to rise as screen time-time spent watching TV, playing video games or using a computer-increases.

Chart: Overweight and obesity rate, by age group, 1978/1979 and 2004According to 2001 data, obese children are more likely than non-obese children to face health problems in the short term, including hypertension, glucose intolerance and orthopaedic complications, as well as issues concerning social acceptance, body image and self-esteem. Even more serious health conditions await them as adults, since childhood obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease and other problems.