Age at menarche and the evidence for a positive secular trend in urban South Africa

Am J Hum Biol. 2009 Jan-Feb;21(1):130-2. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20836.


Menarcheal age was estimated for 287 (188 Black; 99 White) urban South African girls born in Soweto-Johannesburg in 1990. The median menarcheal age for Blacks was 12.4 years (95% confidence interval (CI) 12.2, 12.6) and 12.5 years (95% CI 11.7, 13.3) for Whites. Data from six studies of menarcheal age, including the current study, were analyzed to examine the evidence for a secular trend between 1956 and 2004 in urban South African girls. There was evidence of a statistically significant secular trend for Blacks, but not Whites. Average menarcheal age for Blacks decreased from 14.9 years (95% CI 14.8, 15.0) in 1956 to 12.4 years (95% CI 12.2, 12.6) in the current study, an average decline of 0.50 years per decade. Fewer data were available for Whites, but average menarcheal age decreased from 13.1 years (95% CI 13.0, 13.2) in 1977 to 12.5 years (95% CI 11.7, 13.3) in the current study, an average decline of 0.22 years per decade. The diminishing age at menarche and the current lack of difference between Blacks and Whites is probably reflective of the continuing nutritional and socio-economic transition occurring within South Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Menarche / physiology*
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*