Predicting skeletal problems
20 April 2005
Children from more privileged backgrounds are taller and leaner than children from poorer backgrounds, according to recent research. This may leave them more susceptible to skeletal problems such as fractures or osteoporosis in later life.
In a project investigating bone development in children, researchers confirmed that social position is connected to height and weight, but that there was no relationship with bone mass. However, bone shape did appear to be affected, with children from a higher social position more likely to have longer, slender bones, which could be more vulnerable to breaks and medical complications.
The study, led by Dr Emma Clark, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, found that by age ten, children whose mothers were educated to degree level were, on average, 1.5 cm taller than children whose mothers had no formal qualification. They were also, on average, 1 kg lighter.
The findings, which were announced on Tuesday 19 April 2005 at the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) Annual Conference, come from a six-month study, which looked at over 6700 children. Researchers recorded each child's height, weight and bone mass against social information – such as housing tenure, mother's and father's highest educational qualification and employment.
All of the volunteers from this programme are part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) – also know as 'Children of the 90s' - a groundbreaking programme that monitors the health and development of almost 14 000 children born between 1991 and 1992, and their families.
Dr Clark is planning to expand this area of work by examining the number of children who suffer broken bones and other skeletal problems, related to their social background. She has been awarded the BSR Young Investigator Award for this work.
- Social background may predict skeletal problems (Press release: 19 April 2005)