Indian Teenagers Are Maturing Sexually Way Before Their Age; Here's Why

Indian Teenagers Are Maturing Sexually Way Before Their Age; Here's Why

The study revealed that 10.4 per cent of children, predominantly aged 8 to 13, exhibited signs of early puberty, surpassing the global average of 5 per cent.

IANSUpdated: Saturday, November 25, 2023, 06:21 PM IST
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In girls, the usual onset of puberty is between 8 and 13 years, and early puberty occurs when these changes manifest before the age of 8 | Freepik

Early puberty, also known as precocious puberty, is a condition characterized by the premature onset of puberty, marked by the development of secondary sexual characteristics like breast buds, pubic hair, or menstruation before the expected age. In girls, the usual onset of puberty is between 8 and 13 years, and early puberty occurs when these changes manifest before the age of 8. The premature initiation of sexual development can have significant physical, emotional, and social implications for affected children.

IANSlife caught up with Dr Meghna Chawla Consultant Pediatric Endocrinologist, Ruby Hall Clinic Pune, decoding early puberty in India, a closer look at the 2023 study's revelations. What did the 2023 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research reveal about the prevalence of early puberty in India? Dr Chawla said, "The 2023 study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) uncovered a troubling prevalence of early puberty among Indian children. The study revealed that 10.4 per cent of children, predominantly aged 8 to 13, exhibited signs of early puberty, surpassing the global average of 5 per cent. This high incidence underscores the urgent need for further research and effective intervention strategies to address the escalating issue of early puberty in India."

How does the statistic of 10.4 per cent translate to the real-life scenario of 1 in 10 Indian children experiencing early puberty? Dr Chawla said, "The statistic of 10.4 per cent translates to an estimated 13 million children in India experiencing early puberty. This widespread prevalence underscores the urgency of addressing this issue. Early puberty can impact physical development, leading to premature bone maturation and shorter final adult height." Additionally, emotional and social challenges, such as low self-esteem and anxiety, can significantly affect children's well-being.

What emotional changes might children in classes 5-9 experience during early puberty, according to the study? Dr Chawla in response, said, "The ICMR study identified several emotional challenges faced by children in classes 5-9 experiencing early puberty. These challenges include low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. The premature physical changes associated with early puberty can lead to feelings of self-consciousness and social isolation, contributing to emotional distress." Additionally, the accelerated development can disrupt peer relationships and create a sense of being different from others, further exacerbating emotional difficulties.

Can early menstruation impact a child's growth, or is this a myth? Dr Chawla continued, "The misconception that early menstruation stunts growth has been disproven by the ICMR study. The study found no significant correlation between early menstruation and stunted growth in girls. This finding contradicts the prevailing myth and provides reassurance to parents and healthcare providers."

What signs, according to the study, suggest early menstruation in children in classes 5-9? Dr Chawla explained, "The ICMR study identified several signs suggestive of early menstruation in children in classes 5-9, including breast development before the age of 8, pubic hair growth before the age of 8, rapid height growth, changes in body odour, acne start of menstruation (period) before the age of 10."

Why is early detection crucial in addressing the challenges associated with early puberty? Dr Chawla added, "Early detection is paramount in addressing the challenges associated with early puberty. By identifying early puberty promptly, healthcare professionals can provide timely intervention and support to mitigate the physical, emotional, and social consequences. Early intervention can include medical care to manage hormonal imbalances, counselling to address emotional concerns and guidance to help children navigate the changes they are experiencing."

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