Prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of stunting and thinness among Pakistani primary school children

BMC Public Health. 2011 Oct 11;11:790. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-790.


Background: Child growth is internationally recognized as an important indicator of nutritional status and health in populations. Child under-nutrition is estimated to be the largest contributor to global burden of disease, and it clusters in South Asia but literature on under-nutrition among school-aged children is difficult to find in this region. The study aimed to assess the prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of stunting and thinness among Pakistani primary school children.

Methods: A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted with a representative multistage cluster sample of 1860 children aged 5-12 years in Lahore, Pakistan. Stunting (< -2 SD of height-for-age z-score) and thinness (< -2 SD of BMI-for-age z-score) were defined using the World Health Organization reference 2007. Chi-square test was used as the test of trend. Logistic regression was used to quantify the independent predictors of stunting and thinness and adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) were obtained. Linear regression was used to explore the independent determinants of height- and BMI-for-age z-scores. Statistical significance was considered at P < 0.05.

Results: Eight percent (95% CI 6.9-9.4) children were stunted and 10% (95% CI 8.7-11.5) children were thin. Stunting and thinness were not significantly associated with gender. Prevalence of stunting significantly increased with age among both boys and girls (both P < 0.001) while thinness showed significant increasing trend with age among boys only (P = 0.034). Significant correlates of stunting included age > 8 years, rural area and urban area with low SES, low-income neighborhoods, lower parental education, more siblings, crowded housing and smoking in living place (all P < 0.001). Significant correlates of thinness included rural area and urban area with low SES, low-income neighborhoods and lower parental education (all P < 0.001), and age > 10 years (P = 0.003), more siblings (P = 0.016) and crowded housing (P = 0.006). In multivariate logistic regression analyses adjusted simultaneously for all factors, older age (aOR 3.60, 95% CI 1.89-6.88), urban area with low SES (aOR 2.58, 95% CI 1.15-5.81) and low-income neighborhoods (aOR 4.62, 95% CI 1.63-13.10) were associated with stunting while urban area with low SES (aOR 2.28, 95% CI 1.21-4.30) was associated with thinness. In linear regression analyses adjusted for all factors, low-income neighborhoods and older age were associated with lower height-for-age z-score while rural area with low/disadvantaged SES was associated with lower BMI-for-age z-score.

Conclusions: Relatively low prevalence of stunting and thinness depicted an improvement in the nutritional status of school-aged children in Pakistan. However, the inequities between the poorest and the richest population groups were marked with significantly higher prevalence of stunting and thinness among the rural and the urban poor, the least educated, the residents of low-income neighborhoods and those having crowded houses. An increasing trend with age was observed in prevalence of stunting and thinness. Smoking in living place was associated with stunting. Findings suggest the need to implement evidence-based child health policy and strategies, prioritizing the poor and socially disadvantaged population.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • Schools*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinness / epidemiology*
  • Urban Population