This study aimed to examine the prevalence of underweight and determine the sociodemographic and household environmental correlates of underweight among women of reproductive age in Nepal. This study also compared the time trends in the prevalence of underweight with the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity. This cross-sectional study was a secondary data analysis of the nationally representative population-based Nepal Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHSs). Firstly, the time trends of the prevalence of underweight (body mass index (BMI) < 18.5 kg/m2) among women aged 15-49 years were examined at five-year intervals, from the 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016 NDHSs (n = 33,507). Secondly, the sociodemographic and household environmental correlates of underweight were examined from the latest NDHS 2016 (n = 6165). Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the sociodemographic and household environmental correlates of underweight. From 1996 to 2016, the prevalence of underweight decreased from 25.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 23.8%, 26.8%) to 16.9% (95%CI 16.0%, 17.8%), while the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased from 1.6% (95%CI 1.2%, 2.1%) to 15.6% (95%CI 14.7%, 16.5%) and 0.2% (95%CI 0.1%, 0.4%) to 4.1% (95%CI 3.6%, 4.6%), respectively. Sociodemographic factors, such as age, educational status, marital status, wealth index, and religion, were independently associated with the risk of underweight. Similarly, household environmental factors, such as province of residence, ecological zone, type of toilet facility, and household possessions, including television and mobile phone, were independently associated with the risk of underweight. Despite the declining trends, the prevalence of underweight among Nepalese women remains a public health challenge. Understanding the key sociodemographic and household environmental correlates of underweight may assist in streamlining the content of health promotion campaigns to address undernutrition and potentially mitigate adverse health outcomes.
Keywords: BMI; Nepal; sociodemographic and household environmental correlates; sustainable development goals; undernutrition; underweight; women.