German children are taller than 30 years ago, but the increase in height observed during the last century has become slower. In the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2009; 106(23): 377-82), Bettina Gohlke and Joachim Woelfle of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Bonn summarize the current state of knowledge of changes in height and of the physical development of young people.
7- to 10-year olds are 1 to 1.5 cm taller than in the 1970s, whereas length at birth only slightly increased between 1984 and 1997, by 0.2 cm. This implies that the rate of growth during childhood has increased. This trend is less marked after puberty. There has also been little change in physical maturation. Thus, the age at menarche in young women has remained constant at about 13 years since the early 1960s.
The correlation between growth and socioeconomic status has been well established. For this reason, body growth is accepted as an important indicator of the socioeconomic conditions of a society. However, the biological mechanism through which this acts is still unknown.