Pandemic Caused Early Puberty for Black Girls

During the pandemic, young girls entered puberty much earlier than previous years.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, early childhood puberty or  idiopathic central precocious puberty (ICPP) increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers from the University of Genoa compared the incidence of ICPP during COVID-19 (March 2020 to June 2021; group 2) to that of the previous four years (January 2016 through March 2020; group 1) using anthropometric, biochemical, and radiological parameters.

According to the study, researchers found that the incidence of RP-ICPP was higher for group 2 versus group 1 (53.5 versus 41.1 percent), with the highest annual incidence in 2021. Age at diagnosis (7.96 ± 0.71 versus 7.61 ± 0.94), mean breast development Tanner stage (2.86 ± 0.51 versus 2.64 ± 0), and time between appearance of thelarche and diagnosis (0.93 ± 0.75 versus 0.71 ± 0.62 years) differed significantly for groups 1 and 2. Group 2 had an increase in the number of girls younger than 8 years of age, while group 1 had significantly more girls older than 8 years. Body mass index standard deviation scores were higher in group 2, and those in group 2 spent an average of 1.94 ± 1.81 hours per day using electronic devices; 88.5 percent stopped any physical activity.

“Our study confirms the rise in precocious puberty diagnoses during COVID-19 and identifies contributing factors such as poor eating and exercise habits, too much screen time, and impaired sleep,” coauthor Mohamad Maghnie, M.D., Ph.D., also from the University of Genoa, said in a statement.

However, even prior to the pandemic, research indicates that Black girls can begin puberty earlier than other races of girls. A study conducted by National Institutes of Health sought to determine the current prevalence and mean ages of onset of pubertal characteristics in young girls seen in pediatric practices in the United States. According to researchers, out of 17,000 girls who were evaluated, Black girls appeared to develop breasts and axillary hair at earlier ages than white girls. While researchers believe the reasons may vary, racial disparities and inequality are considered factors in the early onset of puberty amongst Black girls. 

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