Overweight, obesity and underweight in nurses in Vhembe and Capricorn districts, Limpopo
Background: In South Africa, anecdotal evidence concerning the prevalence of overweight and obesity in nurses is alarming, but no scientific studies have confirmed this notion. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of underweight, overweight and obesity in black nurses practising in South Africa.
Method: A cross-sectional study involving 153 nurses, aged 19-50 years and older, was undertaken in the Vhembe and Capricorn districts, Limpopo province. Height and weight were measured to determine body mass index (BMI) and physical activity was assessed by report. The World Health Organization criteria determined the BMI categories.
Results: The mean BMI of the nurses was 31.7 ± 18.1 kg/m2. The prevalence of underweight, overweight, obesity and extreme obesity in the nurses was 2%, 27.5%, 44.4% and 7.2%, respectively. The prevalence of overweight and obesity increased with age, peaking at ages 30-39 for overweight, and over 50 years of age for obesity. Among the males nurses, the prevalence of underweight, overweight, obesity and extreme obesity were 2%, 30.6%, 36.7% and 6.1%, respectively. Corresponding figures for the female nurses were 1.9%, 26%, 48.1% and 7.7%, respectively.
Conclusion: The study revealed a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in nurses in the Vhembe and Capricorn districts, a rate that is comparable with that of the general population in South Africa. Future studies are needed to identify risk factors for the prevalence of overweight and obesity in nurses.
Keywords: nurses, body mass index, overweight, obesity, underweight, South Africa