During the COVID-19 pandemic’s long months of stay-at-home orders and limited activities, American children gained excess weight, a new study of almost 200,000 kids suggests, according to a news release from Michigan Medicine.
This led to a higher number of children and adolescents who are obese or overweight, according to the analysis.
“Childhood obesity has long been a major health concern and our findings suggest that the pandemic may have compounded this problem,” said one of the lead authors Susan Woolford, MD, MPH, Pediatrician at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and researcher with the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center.
A team of researchers from U-M and Kaiser Permanente Southern California analyzed KPSC electronic health record data of kids and teens ages 5-17. Researchers compared their body mass index, or BMI, before the pandemic between March 2019 and January 2020 to during the pandemic between March 2020 and January 2021.
Excess weight gain was particularly notable in the youngest children, 5 to 11 years old, who gained an average of five pounds more during the pandemic period. Whereas older children ages 16-17 gained two pounds more compared to the previous year.
This extra weight gain increased the prevalence of young children considered overweight or obese by roughly 9%, according to the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.