The incidence of early puberty, especially in girls, increased 3.6-fold during the blockade of Covid, according to a study by researchers at a hospital in Pune. The exact cause is unknown, but the possible causes of idiopathic central precocious puberty in children aged eight and nine during the pandemic are many, including stress, increased cell phone use, and disinfectants, researchers at Jehangir Hospital said.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that 155 (5.1 percent) of 3,053 referrals to the hospital were related to premature maturity, compared with 59 (1.4 percent) of 4,208 before the pandemic.
Details of the study
Researchers found that hospital referrals for “precocious puberty” (children who become adults too early) increased 3.6 times during the pandemic, with children aged 8-9 showing signs of maturity much more -early than expected, including early menstruation. The findings coincide with the trends observed in other countries. An Italian study, for example, reported a 108 percent increase in recommendations for suspected precocious puberty during the country’s COVID blockade in 2020.
Researchers from Jehangir Hospital used two study groups, the pre-blocking group COVID (Group 1), covering 1 September 2018, until 29 February 2020, and Group 2, covering the period between 1 March 2020 and September 30, 2021. During the COVID blocking period, out of 3,053 patients at our Pediatric Endocrinology Center, 155 patients (146 girls and nine boys) were referred for precocious puberty (5 percent) significantly higher than recommendations in the period before COVID, and only 59 patients (54 girls and five boys) out of 4208 (just over 1 percent).
Doctors suspect that increased cell phone use, late sleep, stress, anxiety and depression are known to be the cause of premature puberty, and all of these factors predominate during blocking. Because disinfectants were widely used during blockade, increased triclosan exposure may have stimulated early puberty in children. However, more research is needed to confirm this link.
The pandemic has also led to a more sedentary lifestyle with increased consumption of junk food and increased obesity. All these factors together can lead to early puberty and future complications associated with it. Another doctor suggested that the increased use of disinfectants has made companies more attractive with a pleasant smell. Therefore, they use chemicals such as phthalate, which can lead to hormonal imbalances. Some studies have also found that children with vitamin D deficiency may be more likely to develop early puberty.