The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The influence of height and weight on adult skeletal age estimation


Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

In all biological sciences, body size is a crucial variable in the analysis of biological traits, yet in the assessment of adult human skeletal age the influence of body size has received little attention. The most reliable and frequently used age estimation methods are based on pelvic morphology, where loads vary with body weight during life; however, any influence of body height and weight on skeletal age changes remains undetermined. This study assessed age from weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing bone surfaces in skeletons of individuals with known heights and weights at death.

Eight age estimation methods were applied to over 500 skeletons from the Hamann-Todd Collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Individuals ranged in size from 5’1’’ to 6’3’’and 82lbs to 220lbs. The pubic symphysis, auricular surface, sacrum, and acetabulum represented the weight-bearing joints; the first and fourth ribs represented the non-weight-bearing joints. Inaccuracy and bias were calculated for each method and tested for significance. When height is controlled, individuals in the lightest and heaviest weight categories tend to be under-aged more often while individuals in the middle categories have more variable age trends. The comparison of individuals with differing heights and weights to age suggests that there are age-related patterns. Among the sites tested, the ribs and pubic symphysis tend towards under-aging, while Buckberry and Chamberlain’s auricular surface method tends towards over-aging. The over-aging of individuals in the lightest and heaviest weight categories may indicate that lifestyle and activity are important in age estimation.

This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, grant 752-2010-2124.

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