Josefine Jonsson, 11, is one of the girls who gets growth hormone treatment. Photo: Mona Hambraeus/Sveriges Radio

More boys get growth hormone treatments

"I wanted to be taller"
2:08 min

Nearly a thousand children have received growth hormone treatments to treat their hormone deficiency in Sweden since 2000. And most of them are boys.

So are boys more likely to have a shortage of the growth hormone? Well, no, not according to the experts. They say the reason more boys get the treatment is that often when it comes to boys, parents more frequently ask for help for their short sons.

And, according to Lars Sävendahl, a professor in child endocrinology at Karolinska Institute, boys and girls are not treated any differently by doctors.

"The difference is that there are much fewer girls who are referred to specialists throughout Sweden,” says Sävendahl. “Parents with daughters ask for help less often than parents with boys who are short.”

Sävendahl says he thinks it is because people have the notion that boys should be big and strong and girls, small and sweet.

Children can be short for a number of reasons, and quite often the reason is not due to any illness.

For example, short parents, for natural reasons, have short children. Even illnesses like asthma, child rheumatism and renal failure can be the cause. Also children with psychological problems can stop growing at the normal rate.

And Professor Sävendahl says he does not think that too few girls get treated. "It's not so much that we have too few girls but rather too many boys, where people are worried about being short adults, and when it's often genetic factors that are at play,” he says. “That's to say either one or both parents are short."

One girl getting the treatment is eleven year old Josefine Jonsson. She had a documented shortage of the growth hormone. "I wanted to be taller and then I got checked and they decided that it was good for me,” she says.

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