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Hum Biol. 2001 Oct;73(5):727-38.

One hundred years of growth: the evolution of height, mass, and body composition in Australian children, 1899-1999.

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  • 1School of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Studies, University of South Australia, Underdale.


This paper summarizes 41 reports on the height and mass of Australian children aged between 5.00 and 16.99 years between 1899 and 1999. In all, data on 644,613 children were collated, including individual data on 68,196 children. After primary data treatment to correct for methodological and statistical artifacts, regressions were calculated to quantify the rate of change of height and mass over time. Distributional analysis was used to probe for changes in skewness of mass values, indicative of differentially greater increases at higher percentiles. In addition, studies reporting skin fold measurements were analyzed to assess changes in subcutaneous adiposity since 1976. The results show that height has been increasing at a rate of about 1.02 cm.decade(-1), and mass at a rate of about 0.99 kg.decade(-1). The height and mass of children continue to increase, after a slowing down in the rate of increase between 1950 and 1980. Increases in mass at the higher percentiles have been much greater than at lower percentiles, particularly since the mid-1980s, suggesting that the incidence of obesity is increasing in Australian children. Furthermore, a steady linear increase in subcutaneous skin fold thicknesses since 1976 suggests that the overall level of fatness is increasing in Australian children. These findings indicate that Australian children are following trends becoming evident elsewhere in the developed world, and that we may see an increasingly large subset of increasingly obese children in the early years of the 21st century.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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