Changes in BMI During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Pediatrics. 2022 Sep 1;150(3):e2022056552. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-056552.


Background and objectives: Experts hypothesized increased weight gain in children associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Our objective was to evaluate whether the rate of change of child body mass index (BMI) increased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with prepandemic years.

Methods: The study population of 1996 children ages 2 to 19 years with at least 1 BMI measure before and during the COVID-19 pandemic was drawn from 38 pediatric cohorts across the United States participating in the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes-wide cohort study. We modeled change in BMI using linear mixed models, adjusting for age, sex, race, ethnicity, maternal education, income, baseline BMI category, and type of BMI measure. Data collection and analysis were approved by the local institutional review board of each institution or by the central Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes institutional review board.

Results: BMI increased during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with previous years (0.24 higher annual gain in BMI during the pandemic compared with previous years, 95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.45). Children with BMI in the obese range compared with the healthy weight range were at higher risk for excess BMI gain during the pandemic, whereas children in higher-income households were at decreased risk of BMI gain.

Conclusions: One effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in annual BMI gain during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the 3 previous years among children in our national cohort. This increased risk among US children may worsen a critical threat to public health and health equity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult