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J Nutr Health Aging. 2002;6(6):363-9.

Social and health factors influencing poor nutritional status among rural elderly Malays.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, University Kebangsaan Malaysia, 50300 Jalan Raja Muda Abd. Aziz, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Older people especially those residing in rural areas are at a greater risk of malnutrition.


To assess nutritional status and social and health factors influencing poor nutritional status among rural elderly Malays.


Cross-sectional study on 350 elderly Malays, aged 60 years and above selected from 11 traditional villages in a rural area of Malaysia. Nutritional status was assessed using anthropometric measurements such as body weight, height, demispan and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC). A questionnaire was administered to obtain information on social and health aspects. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine social and health predictors of poor nutritional status as assessed by Body Mass Index (BMI) and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC).


In this sample, 38% of the subjects were underweight according to BMI < 18.5 kg/m2, particularly women. Women were also found to be four and three times more likely to be peripherally wasted, as assessed respectively by MUAC (p<0.05), and by corrected arm muscle area (p<0.005). It was found that 12% of subjects were overweight, the majority of whom were women. The predictors of BMI were unable to cook, reported insufficient money to buy food, smokers and perceived weight loss. The predictors of MUAC were: unable to cook, single, reported insufficient money to buy food, smokers, loss of appetite, depended on others for main economic resources, and perceived weight loss.


The nutritional status of the elderly is rather unsatisfactory. Recognition of social and health factors associated with the poor nutritional status will allow appropriate intervention to enhance the quality of life of the elderly.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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