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Differences Between Child & Adult BMI

Differences Between Child & Adult BMI

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number which is calculated by

It measures the relationship between your height and weight and provides an estimate of the amount of body fat.

The BMI for children and adults are calculated the same way.
However, they are interpreted differently.

As children grow, the amount of body fat changes with age so BMI for children needs to be interpreted in relation to a child's age. There are also gender differences. Therefore, for children and youth, BMI is age and gender specific. This means that the age and gender of a child must be considered when interpreting their BMI.

Once the BMI value has been calculated, it is plotted on a BMI-for-age Percentile chart. Separate charts are used for boys and girls.

BMI-for-age Percentile Chart, Girls, 6 - 18 years
BMI-for-age Percentile Chart, Boys, 6 - 18 years

When the BMI (vertical axis) is plotted against the age (horizontal axis), it intersects to show which percentile or percentile range that particular BMI value falls within. See example here.

Different percentiles or percentile ranges indicate different weight categories.

Percentile Weight Status (for boys & girls aged 6-18 years old)
≥ 97th percentile Severely Overweight
90th to < 97th percentile Overweight
5th to < 90th percentile Acceptable Weight
3rd to < 5th percentile Underweight
< 3rd percentile Severely Underweight

The percentile or percentile range shows the relative position of the child's BMI among children of the same age and gender.

For children, BMI is used to determine if they are severely overweight, overweight, of acceptable weight, underweight or severely underweight. It is not a diagnostic tool. So, if you find that your child is overweight, it is best for you to consult your doctor to find out if he/she has any health problems associated with his/her weight.

Th text of this article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with some modifications with permission from HPB.

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