Objective: To examine the effects of the socioeconomic changes occurring during the German reunification on anthropometric data of newborns, children, and young adults. Study design Data were drawn from different perinatal surveys and cross-sectional studies that were conducted in the newly formed German states before and after reunification (1984-2000).
Results: The mean birth weight of newborns increased 151 g between 1984 and 1985 (n = 51,447) and 1997 (n = 83,052), whereas length increased by 0.2 cm. Among 7- to 10-year-old school children in the federal state of Saxonia between 1984 and 1985 (n = 2359) and 1999 and 2000 (n = 11,575), an increase of height by 1 to 2 cm and weight by 1.2 to 2.6 kg was observed. Average body mass index (BMI) increased by 0.7 to 0.9 kg/m(2). Among military recruits from Eastern Germany, an increase in weight and height was observed between 1985 and 1998. BMI values rose from 21.5 to 22.6 kg/m(2), and "centimeter weight" increased from 381 to 405 g/cm.
Conclusion: The results show that the change in socioeconomic conditions was associated with alteration in anthropometric measures within a short period. This may have been caused by changes in the nutrient supply and composition as well as reduced physical activity.