Secular trend in body height and weight of Australian children and adolescents Academic Article uri icon


  • Secular changes in growth and maturation have been well documented in various world populations, with secular increase especially noticeable in the developed countries. To assess the trend in both adult size and tempo of growth we compared the data on stature and body weight obtained in 1992-1993 from 1,804 Melbourne school students aged 5 to 17 with historical data collected from white Australians during the last 100 years. We illustrate the age-dependent trend in stature and body weight by means of regression surfaces. These were constructed by fitting local regression models to historical data and by simple plots showing the overall, and per decade, secular increase in both these measures at peripubertal and adult ages. Because of limited information on sample sizes and variability provided by the historical data, statistical comparisons have been performed only between the present 1992-1993 survey and two earlier independent surveys conducted in 1985 and 1970. The results have shown secular increase in adult stature over the last century, with the rate of increase varying between 0.4 and 2.1 cm/decade in males and 0.01 and 1.6 cm/decade in females. While secular increase in stature has significantly slowed down during the last two decades, the increase in body weight is still continuing at a high rate, and this increase is more pronounced in females. The period of strong secular increase, especially in the tempo of growth, coincided both with the shift toward earlier menarche and the improvement of socioeconomic conditions of the Australian population. The need for further studies to identify factors determining the continuing increase in body weight is emphasized, and caution in using the existing national growth standards for stature and weight is recommended.

publication date

  • April 2000