06. tbl. 108. árg. 2022

Physique of children and adolescents in Northern Iceland then and now

Líkamsástand barna og unglinga á Sauðárkróki og í Varmahlíð fyrr og nú

Linda Björk Valbjörnsdóttir1,2

Þórarinn Sveinsson1

Árni Árnason1,3

1Research Centre of Movement Science, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Iceland, 2The Health Care Institution of North Iceland in Sauðárkrókur, 3Gáski Physiotherapy, Reykjavík.

Correspondence: Linda Björk Valbjörnsdóttir, lindabjork@skybox.is

Key words: children, adolescents, physique, physical development, secular changes, public health

INTRODUCTION: In the first half of the 20th century, Icelandic doctors and teachers began documenting the health of school children, believing that physical measurements were important to monitoring physical development. The measurements could also be used for comparison in other areas and for reasearch. At the Reginonal Archives of Skagafjordur, rare data about the physique of children in Saudarkrokur in 1912–1953, measured by Jon Th. Bjornsson, is preserved.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Height, weight, grip strenght, thorax expansion and tidal volume were measured twice in 2018–2019 on 7–15-year-old children in elementary schools in Saudarkrokur and Varmahlid. These measurements were compared with similar measurements from 1912–1953.

RESULTS: Children in 2018–2019 at ages 7–15 years were significantly taller, heavier, with greater thorax expansion and tidal volume than their peers in 1912–1953 (p<0,001–0,037). Children in 2018–2019 at ages 7–14 years had significantly higher body mass index than their peers in 1912–1953 (p<0,001–0,027). If adjusted for height and weight in thorax expansion and tidal volume measurements, similar results were found. Children in 2018–2019 had significantly less grip strength than their peers in 1912–1953 at ages 7 and 9–12-years when adjusted for height and weight (p<0,001–0,025). There was significant development in the physique of children over the years 1912–1953 in most measurements and age groups (p<0,001–0,040).

CONCLUSIONS: A significant increase in measured factors in 2018–2019 compared to 1912–1953 can possibly be attributed to improved quality of life.


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