National and State Trends in BMI Percentile, Obesity, and Overweight Rates Among Youth using YRBSS Data

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Adolescent obesity is an area of growing public health concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts surveys through their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) every two years to monitor a variety of health risk factors and behaviors among high school and middle school students. The YRBSS compiles information about obesity and BMI percentile, among many other factors. We accessed a combined dataset available on the YRBSS website which includes all data collected from high school students’ surveys from 1991 to 2013. Due to updating of questionnaires and adding of variables over the years, some variables only appear in the most recent years, limiting trend analysis to the timeframe in which the variable of interest was included. We analyzed the linear and quadratic trends in BMI percentile, obesity, and overweight rates in the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from 1999 to 2013 and in the Tennessee YRBS from 2003 to 2013. Each variable was stratified by age and race to observe differences among groups. National trends show an increase in average BMI percentiles overall from 1999 to 2007, a decrease between 2007 and 2009, then another increase between 2009 and 2013. Tennessee trends show a dramatic increase in average BMI percentile overall from 2003 to 2007, then a decrease between 2007 and 2013. Since 2005, Tennessee has maintained a higher average BMI percentile (64.23, 66.37, 65.00, 64.96, 64.23) than the national average (63.47, 64.23, 62.81, 63.00, 63.51) for each recorded year, however, the decreasing trends in Tennessee and increasing trends in the nation have brought the average BMI percentiles of each to comparable rates. There is literature to support the variation of BMI among young, middle-aged, and elderly individuals. However, there is currently little evidence of differences in BMI percentiles, obesity, or overweight rates between different age groups of high school students. We expect to see little, if any, differences across different age groups of high school students in this study both nationally and at the state level. Racial and ethnic disparities exist for a variety of health conditions and outcomes. Many conditions, including obesity, disproportionately affect minority populations. We expect to see differences in BMI percentiles, obesity, and overweight rates across different races at both nationally and at the state level.


Johnson City, TN

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