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To investigate the associations and relative impact of illness, socio-economic and social indicators for nutritional status among elderly persons in rural Bangladesh.
A multidisciplinary, cross-sectional study employing home interviews to collect information on demographic, socio-economic and social status; clinical examination to classify medical diagnoses; and Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA) to assess the nutritional status of each participant.
A total of 625 randomly selected individuals (≥60 years of age) participated in home interviews and 473 underwent clinical examination. Complete information on nutritional status was available for 457 individuals, median age 68 years, 55 % women.
Twenty-six per cent of the elderly participants were undernourished and 62 % were at risk of malnutrition according to MNA. More than three-quarters of the participants had acute infections, 66 % suffered from chronic illnesses, 36 % had sensory impairments and 81 % were suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. Acute infections (P < 0·001), gastrointestinal disorders (P < 0·01), depressive symptoms (P < 0·001) and impaired cognitive function (P < 0·01) were significantly and independently associated with poorer nutritional status. Moreover, female gender (P < 0·05), having no income (P < 0·01), being illiterate (P < 0·01) and not receiving regular financial support (P < 0·05) were also independently associated with poor nutritional status.
Malnutrition among elderly people in rural Bangladesh is associated with female gender, medical, psychological, socio-economic and social indicators. A multidimensional approach is probably needed to reduce undernutrition in older populations in low-income countries like Bangladesh.
In stating the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations aims to halve malnutrition around the world by 2015. Nutritional status of the elderly population in low-income countries is seldom focused upon. The present study aimed to evaluate the magnitude of malnutrition among an elderly population in rural Bangladesh.
Design and setting
Data collection for a multidimensional cross-sectional study of community-based elderly people aged 60 years and over was conducted in a rural area in Bangladesh.
Of 850 randomly selected elderly individuals, 625 participated in home interviews. Complete nutritional information was available for 457 individuals (mean age 69 ± 8 years, 55% female). Nutritional status was assessed using an adapted form of the Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA) including body mass index (BMI). Age, sex, education, household expenditure on food and self-reported health problems were investigated as potential predictors of nutritional status.
BMI < 18.5 kg m− 2, indicating chronic energy deficiency, was found in 50% of the population. MNA revealed a prevalence of 26% for protein–energy malnutrition and 62% for risk of malnutrition. Health problems rather than age had a negative impact on nutritional status. Level of education and food expenditure were directly associated with nutritional status.
In order to reduce world hunger by half in the coming decade, it is important to recognise that a substantial proportion of the elderly population, particularly in low-income countries, is undernourished.
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