More than half of American children and adolescents are dehydrated, according to a new study from Harvard researchers. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced the results of a new study on Thursday, June 11th, and it’s clear that kids in the U.S. are not drinking enough water.

The new study was published online on June 11, 2015 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Most American Children Dehydrated [STUDY]

More on new Harvard study

The authors point out that drinking enough water is critical for basic physiological processes such as circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation and waste removal. Severe dehydration can lead to major health problems, and even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, irritability, poor physical performance and cloudy thinking. Given the severity of the consequences, we cannot afford to have American children dehydrated.

The researchers examined data from 2009-2012 involving over 4,000 children and adolescents from ages 6 to 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a study of the health of Americans undertaken annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study measured participants’ urine osmolality (how concentrated a person’s urine is) to determine the level of hydration.

It turns out over half of all children and adolescents weren’t getting enough hydration. Boys were 76% more likely than girls, and non-Hispanic blacks were 34% more likely than non-Hispanic whites, to not be sufficiently hydrated.

Revealing the extent of poor parenting in the U.S., close to a quarter of the children and adolescents surveyed reported drinking no plain water at all.

Statement on new study showing American children dehydrated

“These findings are significant because they highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past,” noted lead author Erica Kenney, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard. “Even though for most of these kids this is not an immediate, dramatic health threat, this is an issue that could really be reducing quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth.”

“The good news is that this is a public health problem with a simple solution,” explained senior study author Steven Gortmaker, a professor of the practice of health sociology. “If we can focus on helping children drink more water—a low-cost, no-calorie beverage—we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school.”