The prevalence of underweight, overweight and obesity in a multiracial group of urban adolescent schoolchildren in the Cape Metropole area of Cape Town

  • S-M Van Niekerk
  • K Grimmer
  • Q Louw


Objective: The objective was to determine the prevalence of underweight, overweight and obesity in high school learners in the Cape Town area.
Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted.
Setting: High schools in the Cape Metropole Area of the Western Cape.
Subjects: A complex cluster sampling procedure was followed. Thirty-six students per school were selected from each randomly selected school. Thirteen- to 18-year-old pupils were eligible for inclusion.
Outcome measures: Height and weight measurements.
Results: The sample comprised 689 students. There were considerably  more underweight adolescent boys than adolescent girls (17.3% boys to 9.9% girls), and double the frequency of overweight adolescent girls than adolescent boys (7.7% girls to 3.5% boys). The 14-year-old boys had the highest prevalence of underweight (55.2%), and the 17-year-old girls the highest prevalence of overweight (22%). The highest prevalence of obesity was found in 15-year-old boys (11.1%), who also demonstrated a relatively high prevalence of underweight (30.2%).
Conclusion: This study reported on a substantial percentage of underweight adolescents (27.1%). Noteworthy levels of overweight and obesity in  adolescent girls added to the substantial prevalence of underweight in adolescent boys. Africa has enough to contend with in respect of transmissible diseases, without additional lifestyle-based health burdens.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190