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J Adolesc Health. 2007 Mar;40(3):227-31. Epub 2007 Jan 24.

Has age at menarche changed? Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2004.

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  • 1National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland 20782, USA.



To examine self-reported age at menarche in U.S. adults and the associations between age at menarche and race/ethnicity.


Data from 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 6788 females 20 years and over were analyzed. Self-reported age at first menses (in years) by birth year groups is reported overall and for Mexican Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks.


Mean age at menarche in the United States declined over time from 13.3 years (95% CI: 13.2-13.5) in the oldest age group, those born prior to 1920, to 12.4 years (95% C.I. 12.2-12.5 years) in the youngest group, born between 1980 and 1984. Declines in age at menarche were observed for all race/ethnicity groups. Non-Hispanic black females had the largest decline in mean age at menarche from 13.6 years (95% CI: 13.1-14.1) in women born prior to 1920, to 12.2 years (95% CI: 11.8-12.6) in the 1980-84 birth cohort. Mean age at menarche among non-Hispanic white females declined from 13.3 years (13.1-13.6) in the pre-1920 birth cohort to 12.5 years (12.3-12.8) in the 1980-84 birth cohort.


Significant declines in the mean age of menarche for U.S. females occurred overall and for all race/ethnic groups examined. Mean age of menarche declined by .9 year overall in women born before 1920 compared to women born in 1980-84; the declines in the mean age at menarche ranged from .7 to 1.4 years depending on the race/ethnicity group.

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