Continuing positive secular growth change in The Netherlands 1955-1997

Pediatr Res. 2000 Mar;47(3):316-23. doi: 10.1203/00006450-200003000-00006.


Since 1858, an increase of mean stature has been observed in the Netherlands, reflecting the improving nutritional, hygienic, and health status of the population. In this study, stature, weight, and pubertal development of Dutch youth, derived from four consecutive nationwide cross-sectional growth studies during the past 42 y, are compared to assess the size and rate of the secular growth change. Data on length, height, weight, head circumference, sexual maturation, and demographics of 14,500 boys and girls of Dutch origin in the age range 0-20 y were collected in 1996 and 1997. Growth references for height and weight were constructed with a method that summarizes the distribution by three smooth curves representing skewness (L curve), the median (M curve), and coefficient of variation (S curve). The relationship between height and demographic variables was assessed by multivariate analysis. Reference curves for menarche and secondary sex characteristics were estimated by a generalized additive model using a logit transformation. A positive secular growth change has been present in the past 42 y for children, adolescents, and young adults of Dutch origin, although at a slower rate in the last 17 y. Height differences according to region, educational level of child and parents, and family size have remained. In girls, median age at menarche has decreased by 6 mo during the past four decades to 13.15 y. Environmental conditions have been favorable for many decades in the Netherlands, and the positive secular change in height has not yet come to a halt, in contrast to Scandinavian countries. Main contributors to the increase in height may be improved nutrition, child health, and hygiene, and a reduction of family size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height*
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Netherlands
  • Sexual Maturation