Disparities in weight changes during the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown in youths

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023 Mar;31(3):789-801. doi: 10.1002/oby.23645. Epub 2023 Feb 8.


Objective: This study evaluates whether changes in weight among school-aged youth in California due to the COVID-19 lockdown vary by social constructs of race/ethnicity and associated social factors.

Methods: Including 160,472 youth aged 5 to 17 years enrolled at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, mixed effects models stratified by age group were fitted to estimate changes in distance from the median BMI-for-age from March 2020 to January 2021 (lockdown) compared with the same period before the pandemic.

Results: Excess pandemic weight gain was higher among Black and Hispanic youth aged 5 to 17 years than among White and Asian youth; this difference was most pronounced in those aged 5 to 11 years. In youth aged 5 to 11 years, the distance from the median BMI-for-age increased by 1.72 kg/m2 (95% CI: 1.61-1.84) in Hispanic and 1.70 kg/m2 (95% CI: 1.47-1.94) in Black youth during the lockdown compared with 1.16 kg/m2 (95% CI: 1.02-1.29) in non-Hispanic White youth. The excess weight gain was also higher in youth with fewer neighborhood parks and those with state-subsidized health insurance.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown led to a gain of excess body weight, particularly for Black and Hispanic youth; this weight gain varied by social factors associated with race and ethnicity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • COVID-19*
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Weight Gain* / ethnology