Gender Disparities in the Prevalence of Undernutrition and the Higher Risk among the Young Women of Indian Tribes

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Gender Disparities in the Prevalence of Undernutrition and the Higher Risk among the Young Women of Indian Tribes
Volume 11
Issue 7
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016

High undernutrition is a grave concern in India. Marginalized populations like Indian tribes have been under the serious stress of such nutritional extreme. Women, in particular, are the worst sufferers. Gender-related comprehensive studies regarding the prevalence and risks of undernutrition among the tribes have not been properly pursued in India; the vulnerability of the young females has least been examined.

Methods and Findings

We conducted a cross-sectional study during January 2011 to December 2013 among 1066 males and 1090 females (n = 2156) in the 20–60 years age group belonging to the nine major tribes; Santals, Oraons and Koras (West Bengal): Santals, Bhumijs and Bathudis (Odisha): Dhodias, Kuknas and Chaudharis (Gujarat). The undernutrition burden was estimated and such risks were analyzed for the women in comparison to the men. The overall undernutrition among the females was found to be 47.4% (95% CI 44.4–50.4) against 32.1% (95% CI 29.3–34.9) among males, indicating about a half of the female population undernourished. The odds of risks for underweight status among females were observed to be high in comparison to males with an odds of 1.9 (95% CI, 1.6–2.2; p≤0.001) for the overall undernutrition category, 1.7 (95% CI, 1.3–2.3; p≤0.001) for the mild undernutrition category, 1.3 (95% CI, 1.1–1.6; p≤0.01) for combined moderate and mild undernutrition category and 3.3 (95% CI at 2.3–4.6; p≤0.001) for severe undernutrition category. The young females were observed with a high prevalence of undernutrition along with increased risk. The 30-year mean BMI trend of the Indian population in comparison to the males, females, and overall tribal population places the tribal females at the highest risk.


Indian tribes are suffering from the higher prevalence of undernutrition by further highlighting a high gender bias. The health and empowerment of adolescent and young tribal girls needs additional focus. Overall, no remarkable control on undernutrition has been achieved among Indian tribes despite various efforts.

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