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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Changes in BMI-distribution from 1966–69 to 1995–97 in adolescents. The Young-HUNT study, Norway

Sigrid Bjørnelv12*, Stian Lydersen3, Arnstein Mykletun4 and Turid Lingaas Holmen1

Author Affiliations

1 HUNT Research Centre, Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Neptunvn 1, 7650 Verdal, Norway

2 Department of Psychiatry, Levanger Hospital, Nord-Trøndelag Hospital Trust, 7600 Levanger, Norway

3 Unit for Applied Clinical Research, Department of Cancer research and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

4 Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:279  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-279

Published: 4 October 2007



The aim of this study was to explore changes in the BMI-distribution over time among Norwegian adolescents.


Height and weight were measured in standardised ways and BMI computed in 6774 adolescents 14–18 years who participated in the Young-HUNT study, the youth part of the Health-study of Nord-Trondelag County, Norway in 1995–97. The results were compared to data from 8378 adolescents, in the same age group and living in the same geographical region, collected by the National Health Screening Service in 1966–69.


From 1966–69 to 1995–97 there was an increased dispersion and a two-sided change in the BMI-distribution. Mean BMI did not increase in girls aged 14–17, but increased significantly in 18 year old girls and in boys of all ages. In both sexes and all ages there was a significant increase in the upper percentiles, but also a trend towards a decrease in the lowest percentiles. Height and weight increased significantly in both sexes and all ages.


The increased dispersion of the BMI-distribution with a substantial increase in upper BMI-percentiles followed the same pattern seen in other European countries and the United States. The lack of increase in mean BMI among girls, and the decrease in the lowest percentiles has not been acknowledged in previous studies, and may call for attention.