Tools used for age assessments very inaccurate, study finds

Methods that local authorities use to assess the age of asylum seekers are inaccurate more than a third of the time, a study has found

The way authorities inspect age is filled with errors, the study said Photo: imageBROKER/REX

The methods used to assess if asylum seekers are children are wrong in more than a third of cases, a new study has found.

Age assessments use markers of physical growth and development to determine  developmental age, and is a tool used by local authorities and immigration bodies to assess if asylum seekers are children or adults.

However the study, published today and funded by the Medical Research Council, found three of the methods used (X-Rays of the hand-wrist, MRI scans of the wrist, and X-Rays of the third molars), are very inaccurate.

Other methods

Tim Cole, professor of medical statistics at University College London Institute of Child Health, said other methods of age assessment need to be explored.

The study reviewed the literature on the three methods, and conducted analysis of seven international studies, totalling nearly 7,000 subjects, and assessed the use of X-ray scans of third molars to determine age.

“The results of my research show that current methods used to assess developmental age in the UK do not work well. It is important their inaccuracy is widely realised so that where age is assessed based on physical development, the quality of evidence can be challenged,” Cole said.

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