Trends in the Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency

Pediatrics. 2017 Mar;139(3):e20162748. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2748. Epub 2017 Feb 3.


Background: Vitamin D has attracted considerable interest in recent years, and health care providers have reported large increases in vitamin D test requests. However, rates of diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency in clinical practice have not been investigated. We examined trends in diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency in children in England over time, and by sociodemographic characteristics.

Methods: Cohort study using primary care records of 711 788 children aged 0 to 17 years, from the Health Improvement Network database. Incidence rates for diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency were calculated per year between 2000 and 2014. Rate ratios exploring differences by age, sex, ethnicity, and social deprivation were estimated using multivariable Poisson regression.

Results: The crude rate of vitamin D deficiency diagnosis increased from 3.14 per 100 000 person-years in 2000 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.31-7.54) to 261 per 100 000 person-years in 2014 (95% CI, 241-281). After accounting for changes in demographic characteristics, a 15-fold (95% CI, 10-21) increase in diagnosis was seen between 2008 and 2014. Older age (≥10 years), nonwhite ethnicity, and social deprivation were independently associated with higher rates of diagnosis. In children aged <5 years, diagnosis rates were higher in boys than girls, whereas in children aged ≥10 they were higher in girls.

Conclusions: There has been a marked increase in diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency in children over the past decade. Future research should explore the drivers for this change in diagnostic behavior and the reasons prompting investigation of vitamin D status in clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*