Sex and race differences in the development of lung function

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988 Dec;138(6):1415-21. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm/138.6.1415.


The second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1976 to 1980) provided spirometric examinations for a nationwide sample of individuals 6 to 24 yr of age. We analyzed spirometric data on 1,963 healthy, nonsmoking blacks and whites to examine sex and race differences in FVC, FEV1, FEV3, PEF, Vmax50, Vmax75, and mid-maximal expiratory flow (MMEF). The population was divided into three age groups: children (6 to 11), teens (males 12 to 20, females 12 to 17), and young adults (males 21 to 24, females 18 to 24). Controlling for sex, age, standing height, and body mass index, blacks had consistently lower levels of lung function for most measures. The inclusion of sitting height explained part of this reduction. Controlling for lung size using FVC as a surrogate, the performance of blacks on other spirometry measures was equal to whites in all age groups. Males tended to outperform females with the same anthropometric characteristics before the inclusion of FVC as a predictor variable. However, after controlling for lung size (FVC), female performance exceeded that of males. The higher female performance is particularly noticeable in the later flow measures. Both anatomic and physiologic factors may account for these findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Forecasting
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Lung / growth & development
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Racial Groups*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Vital Capacity