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J Adolesc Health. 2010 Mar;46(3):238-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.07.009. Epub 2009 Oct 13.

Update on age at menarche in Italy: toward the leveling off of the secular trend.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.



To update the information on age at menarche in the Italian population and to verify the influence of genetic, nutritional, and socioeconomic factors on menarcheal age. Recent studies suggest that the magnitude of the secular trend toward an earlier age at menarche is slackening in industrialized countries.


This multicenter study was conducted on a large, population-based sample of Italian high school girls (n = 3,783), using a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire was used to gather information on the girls, including demography, anthropometry, menarcheal date, regularity of menses, behavioral habits, and physical activity. The questionnaire was also used to gather information on parents, including demography and mothers' and sisters' menarcheal ages. The median age at menarche and its 95% confidence interval were estimated by means of Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. To identify the independent predictive factors of age at menarche, multivariate mixed-effects models were applied.


The median age at menarche of the subjects was 12.4 years (95% confidence interval: 12.34-12.46). The girls had their first menses approximately one-quarter of a year (median-0.13) earlier than did their mothers (p < .0001). Among all variables, parents' birth area, body mass index, family size, and the mother's menarcheal age were significantly and independently associated with age at menarche.


This study confirmed the reduction in the trend toward earlier menarche in Italy. The results also confirmed that genetic and nutritional factors are strong markers for early menarche. Currently, socioeconomic factors do not seem to play as significant a role as in the past.

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