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Chronic undernutrition and adolescent school performance in central Ethiopia

K Mechlowitz
KT Roba
A Feye
L Laytner
SL McKune


Chronic undernutrition among adolescents in developing countries has been identified as a major public health issue. Previous research has found associations between chronic undernutrition and academic performance outcomes in adolescents. There is
need for localized research focusing on nutritional status and its association with educational outcomes among adolescents in different areas of Ethiopia. The purpose of this study was to examine whether chronic undernutrition (stunting) in adolescents in
Ethiopia was correlated with various school performance outcomes. This study was a school-based cross-sectional study conducted in North Shewa zone, Ethiopia. Data were collected through a structured questionnaire. The researchers conducted
multivariable linear regression analyses to investigate the relationship between stunting and four school performance outcomes, which included grade 8 Ministry exam score, all-subjects average score, English score, and Math score. The prevalence of stunting in this sample was 11%. After adjusting for all other variables in the model, stunting was positively associated with the grade eight Ministry exam score (β = -4.96; 95% [CI -7.68, -2.25]; p < 0.001). In the multivariate analyses, sex (being female) was significantly associated with the grade eight Ministry exam score (β = -2.08; 95% CI [-3.81, -0.35]; p = 0.019 ), the all-subjects average score (β = -3.97; 95% CI [-5.51, -2.43]; p < 0.001), English score (β = -3.72; 95% CI [-5.60, -1.84]; p < 0 .001), and Math score (β = -4.87; 95% CI [-7.02, -2.72]; p < 0.001). Residence (living in a rural area) was significantly associated with all-subjects average score (β = -3.93; 95% CI [- 5.81, -2.06]; p < 0.001), English score (β = -2.65; 95% CI [-4.94, -0.35]; p = 0.024), and Math score (β = -3.86; 95% CI [-6.50, -1.22]; p = 0.004). Maternal education (grade 1-8) was significantly associated with English score (β = 5.46; 95% CI [1.31, 9.62]; p = 0.010) and Math score (β = 4.78; 95% CI [0.03, 9.53]; p = 0.049). These findings indicate that further research focusing on adolescent chronic undernutrition and educational outcomes as well as why chronic undernutrition is associated with certain performance outcomes and not others is needed before definitive conclusions can be made. Positive changes in child growth later in a child’s life may have important implications for cognition.

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eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358