Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the determinants of socio-economic inequality in the prevalence of short stature and underweight in Iranian children and adolescents.
Methods: This cross-sectional nationwide study was conducted on 36,486 participants, aged 6-18 years. This school-based surveillance (CASPIAN- IV) program and its complementary part on weight disorders evaluation was conducted in urban and rural areas of 30 provinces in Iran. In addition to physical examination, a validated questionnaire was completed from students and their parents. Socio-economic status (SES) was determined using principal component analysis, and was classified in quintile scale. Inequality in the prevalence of underweight and short stature was assessed using concentration (C) index and slop index of inequality (SII) by the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method.
Results: The prevalence (95% CI) of underweight and short stature at national level was 10.89 (10.55, 11.23) and 4.15 (3.94, 4.38), respectively; it had a downtrend from the lowest to highest SES quintile. Furthermore, the value of C for underweight and short stature was negative, i.e. inequality was in favor of high SES groups. Moreover, the prevalence gap of underweight and short stature in the first and fifth quintiles of SES was 6.58% and 5.80%, respectively. The highest proportion of this gap was explained by living area. In the multiple logistic model, odds of underweight and short stature were significantly lower in individuals with higher SES. Compared to boys, odds of underweight were decreased in girls, whereas odds of short stature were increased in them. Odds of underweight and short stature were increased in participants from rural areas than in urban areas. With increasing age, the odds of underweight and short stature decreased significantly.
Conclusion: The results of this study showed that inequality in the prevalence of short stature and underweight was in favor of high SES groups. Moreover, living area was one of the most important determinants that explained this inequality. Therefore, this issue needs to be considered in health promotion policies.
Keywords: Iran; Underweight; inequality; short stature; socio-economic factors.