Sex differences in child and adolescent physical morbidity: cohort study

Sweeting, H. , Whitley, E., Teyhan, A. and Hunt, K. (2017) Sex differences in child and adolescent physical morbidity: cohort study. BMJ Paediatrics Open, 1(1), e000191. (doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2017-000191) (PMID:29637174) (PMCID:PMC5862201)

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Abstract

Background: Evidence on sex differences in physical morbidity in childhood and adolescence is based largely on studies employing single/few physical morbidity measures and different informants. We describe sex differences in a wide range of parent/carer-reported physical morbidity measures between ages 4 and 13 years to determine evidence for a generalised pattern of an emerging/increasing female ‘excess’. Methods: Parents/carers (approximately 90% mothers) of the population-based UK ALSPAC cohort provided data on general health, physical conditions/symptoms and infections in their child approximately annually between ages 4 and 13. Logistic regression analyses determined the odds of each morbidity measure being reported in respect of females (vs males) at each age and the sex-by-age interaction, to investigate any changing sex difference with age. Results: Six measures (general health past year/month, high temperature, rash, eye and ear infections) demonstrated an emerging female ‘excess’, and six (earache, stomach-ache, headache, lice/scabies, cold sores, urinary infections) an increasing female ‘excess’; one (breathlessness) showed a disappearing male ‘excess’. Just two showed either an emerging or increasing male ‘excess’. Most changes were evident during childhood (prepuberty). Six measures showed consistent female ‘excesses’ and four consistent male ‘excesses’. Few measures showed no sex differences throughout this period of childhood/early adolescence. Conclusion: Sex differences are evident for a wide range of parent-reported physical morbidity measures in childhood and early adolescence. Far more measures showed an emerging/increasing female ‘excess’ than an emerging/increasing male ‘excess’. Further studies are required to examine whether patterns differ across sociodemographic/cultural groups, and to explain this generalised pattern.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn and Whitley, Dr Elise and Sweeting, Dr Helen
Authors: Sweeting, H., Whitley, E., Teyhan, A., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Journal Name:BMJ Paediatrics Open
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2399-9772
ISSN (Online):2399-9772
Published Online:29 December 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Paediatrics Open 1(1):e000191
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727641SPHSU Core Renewal: Setting and Health Improvement Research ProgrammeKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/12IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727651SPHSU Core Renewal: Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health Research ProgrammeAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU