Age at first period has changed little since 1950s

May 03, 2001

Age of menarche in contemporary British teenagers: survey of girls born between 1982 and 1986

The average age of menarche (age at first period) in British teenagers has changed very little during the past 20-30 years, finds a study in this week's BMJ. Despite this, almost one girl in eight reaches menarche while still at primary school, and this must be taken into account when providing sanitary facilities and health information for female pupils, report the authors.

Over 1,000 girls aged 12-16 in schools across 10 British towns completed a questionnaire about their first period. The average menarcheal age was 12 years 11 months, with almost 12% reporting that they had had their first period before leaving primary school. Average ages were similar in different regions and did not differ by social class or ethnic group.

The results clearly show that any decrease in average menarcheal age during the past 20-30 years has been small (almost certainly less than six months), particularly when compared with the reduction of a year or more that occurred in many European countries (including Britain) between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries, conclude the authors.

P H Whincup, Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK Email:


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