Early puberty in 11-year-old girls: Millennium Cohort Study findings

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Abstract

Objective

Early puberty in girls is linked to some adverse outcomes in adolescence and mid-life. We address two research questions: (1) Are socioeconomic circumstances and ethnicity associated with early onset puberty? (2) Are adiposity and/or psychosocial stress associated with observed associations?

Design

Longitudinal data on 5839 girls from the UK Millennium Cohort Study were used to estimate associations between ethnicity, family income, adiposity and psychosocial stress with a marker of puberty.

Main outcome measure

Reported menstruation at age 11 years.

Results

All quoted ORs are statistically significant. Girls in the poorest income quintile were twice as likely (OR=2.1), and the second poorest quintile nearly twice as likely (OR=1.9) to have begun menstruation compared with girls in the richest income quintile. Estimates were roughly halved on adjustment for Body Mass Index and markers of psychosocial stress (poorest, OR=1.5; second poorest, OR=1.5). Indian girls were over 3 times as likely compared with whites to have started menstruation (OR=3.5) and statistical adjustments did not attenuate estimates. The raised odds of menstruation for Pakistani (OR=1.9), Bangladeshi (OR=3.3) and black African (OR=3.0) girls were attenuated to varying extents, from about a third to a half, on adjustment for income and adiposity.

Conclusions

In contemporary UK, excess adiposity and psychosocial stress were associated with social inequalities in early puberty, while material disadvantage and adiposity were linked to ethnic inequalities in early puberty among girls.

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