A cross-sectional study of 212 adult (>18 years) male slum dwellers (mean age=34·6±14·4 years) of Midnapore town, West Bengal, India, was undertaken to study the inter-relationships of chronic energy deficiency (CED), monthly family income (MFI), self-reported morbidity and hospitalization due to severe illness. The mean height, weight and body mass index (BMI) of the subjects were 160·0 cm, 50·8 kg and 19·9 kg/m2, respectively. The overall frequencies of CED (BMI<18·5 kg/m2), morbidity and hospitalization were 38·2%, 34·4% and 13·7%, respectively. Based on the WHO classification, the prevalence of CED among this population was high (20–39%), indicating a serious situation. Overall, MFI was significantly (p<0·01) positively correlated with BMI (r=0·21). Linear regression analyses showed that MFI had a significant impact (t=3·08; p<0·002) on BMI. Overall, MFI explained 3·9% variation in BMI. Subjects belonging to the lowest family income group (FIG I) had the lowest mean BMI (19·1 kg/m2) and the highest rate of CED (46·3%) and morbidity (36·6%). Those in the highest family income group (FIG III) had the largest mean BMI (20·8 kg/m2) and lowest rate of CED (30·2%) and morbidity (30·2%). The highest rate (18·9%) of hospitalization was found in this group. There were significant family income group differences in mean BMI (F=3·134, p<0·05). The frequency of morbidity (24·6%) and hospitalization (11·9%) was lowest among normal BMI individuals. Morbidity was significantly higher (χ2=11·92, p=0·0026) among CED (48·2%) subjects compared with normal BMI individuals (OR=2·85; CI=1·49–5·46). Similarly, compared with normal BMI subjects, morbidity was higher (38·5%; OR=1·92; 95% CI=0·50–7·18) among overweight subjects. Hospitalization was more common among CED subjects (16·1%; OR=1·42; CI=0·58–3·45) compared with normal BMI subjects. Similarly, the frequency of hospitalization was more among overweight individuals (15·4%; OR=1·35; 95% CI=0·0–7·59). In conclusion, this study provides evidence that the frequency of CED among this population is high, indicating a serious situation. Moreover there exists strong inter-relationships between BMI, CED, MFI and morbidity.