Double burden of malnutrition among women in reproductive Age (15–49 years) in Sierra Leone: a secondary data analysis of the demographic health survey 2019 (SLDHS-2019)

Article Authors: Ikoona, E. N., Toure, M. A., Njenga, A., Kitara, DL.


The double burden of malnutrition (DBM) is rising globally, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sierra Leone, the incidence of overweight, obesity (OWOB), and overnutrition among women has sharply increased. This finding accompanies the high incidence of undernutrition, which has been prevalent for decades. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of different malnutrition categories (underweight, overweight, obesity, and overnutrition) and associated factors among women of reproductive age (15–49 years) in Sierra Leone using secondary data analysis of the Sierra Leone Demographic Health Survey of 2019 (SLDHS-2019).


We conducted secondary data analysis of the SLDHS-2019 of 7,514 women aged 15–49 years. We excluded pregnant, post-natal, lactating, and post-menopausal women. Data was collected using validated questionnaires, and respondents were selected through a multistage stratified sampling approach. A multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors associated with malnutrition among 15–49-year-old women in Sierra Leone.

Among 15–49-year-old women in Sierra Leone, the prevalence of underweight was 6.7% (95%CI: 4.5-8.9%); overweight at 19.7% (95%CI: 17.7-21.7%); obesity was 7.4% (95% CI: 5.2-9.6%); and overnutrition, 27.1% (95%CI: 25.2-29.0%). Women aged 25–34 years were more likely to be underweight (adjusted Odds Ratios, aOR = 1.670, 95%CI: 1.254–2.224; p < 0.001) than those aged 15–24 years; women who were not married were less likely to be underweight (aOR = 0.594, 95%CI: 0.467–0.755; p < 0.001) than married women. Women from the North were less likely to be underweight (aOR = 0.734, 95%CI: 0.559–0.963; p = 0.026) than the East, and those who did not listen to the radio were less likely to be underweight (aOR = 0.673; 95%CI: 0.549–0.826; p < 0.001) than those who did. Overweight was less likely among 25–34 years (aOR = 0.609, 95%CI: 0.514–0.722; p < 0.001) and 35–49 years (aOR = 0.480, 95%CI: 0.403–0.571; p < 0.001) age-groups than 15–24 years; more likely among not married women (aOR = 1.470, 95%CI:1.249–1.730; p < 0.001) than married; less likely among working-class (aOR = 0.840, 95%CI: 0.720–0.980; p = 0.026) than not working-class; most likely in women from the North (aOR = 1.325, 95%CI:1.096–1.602; p = 0.004), and less likely among women from the South (aOR = 0.755, 95%CI: 0.631–0.903; p = 0.002) than the East; less likely among women of middle-wealth-index (aOR = 0.656, 95%CI: 0.535–0.804; p < 0.001), richer-wealth-index (aOR = 0.400, 95%CI: 0.309–0.517; p < 0.001), and richest-wealth-index (aOR = 0.317, 95%CI: 0.234–0.431; p < 0.001) than the poorest-wealth-index; and more likely among women who did not listen to radios (aOR = 1.149; 95%CI:1.002–1.317; p = 0.047) than those who did.

The predictors of overweight among women 15–49 years are the same as obesity and overnutrition, except overnutrition and obesity were less likely in female-headed households (aOR = 0.717,95%CI: 0.578–0.889; p < 0.001).

The prevalence of all categories of malnutrition among women of reproductive age in Sierra Leone is high, affirming a double burden of malnutrition in this study population. Underweight was more likely among the 25–34-year age group than 15–24-year. The predictors of overweight, obesity, and overnutrition were being unmarried/single, residing in the North, and not listening to the radio. There is an urgent need for policymakers in Sierra Leone to design comprehensive educational programs for women of reproductive age on healthy lifestyles and the dangers of being underweight or over-nourished.

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