Sedentary lifestyle and precocious puberty in girls during the COVID-19 pandemic: an Italian experience

Endocr Connect. 2022 Feb 14;11(2):e210650. doi: 10.1530/EC-21-0650.


Objective: This retrospective study aimed to evaluate children observed for suspected precocious puberty in five Italian centers of Pediatric Endocrinology during the first wave of coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic (March-September 2020), compared to subjects observed in the same period of the previous year.

Design: The study population (490 children) was divided according to the year of observation and final diagnosis: transient thelarche, non-progressive precocious puberty, central precocious puberty (CPP), or early puberty.

Results: Between March and September 2020, 338 subjects were referred for suspected precocious puberty, compared to 152 subjects in the same period of 2019 (+122%). The increase was observed in girls (328 subjects in 2020 vs 140 in 2019, P < 0.05), especially during the second half of the period considered (92 girls from March to May vs 236 girls from June to September); while no difference was observed in boys (10 subjects in 2020 vs 12 in 2019). The percentage of girls with confirmed CPP was higher in 2020, compared to 2019 (135/328 girls (41%) vs 37/140 (26%), P < 0.01). Anthropometric and hormonal parameters in 2019 and 2020 CPP girls were not different; 2020 CPP girls showed more prolonged use of electronic devices and a more sedentary lifestyle both before and during the pandemic, compared to the rest of the 2020 population.

Conclusions: The present findings corroborate the recently reported association between the complex lifestyle changes related to the lockdown and a higher incidence of CPP in Italian girls.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; lockdown; physical exercise; precocious puberty; sedentary lifestyle.