Weight status and eating habits of adolescent Nigerian urban secondary school girls

Alphonsus Ndidi Onyiriuka, Dominic D Umoru, Amarabia N Ibeawuchi


Background. Obesity in adolescence is common, and eating habits are a key determinant. Eating habits in adolescence often differ substantially from those in any other phase of life.

Objective. To assess the weight status and eating habits of adolescent urban secondary school girls in Benin City, Nigeria.

Methods. In this school-based cross-sectional study, data were obtained on the subjects’ eating habits via a structured anonymous self-administered questionnaire, while their weights and heights were obtained by direct measurements. The body mass index (BMI), calculated as weight/height (kg/m2), was used in assessing the weight status of the participants. The study sample was 2 097 adolescent urban public school girls, aged 12 - 19 years. Information was obtained on frequencies of skipping meals, reasons for skipping meals and food choices, as well as the socio-demographic characteristics of the participants. All the students at the two study schools were invited to participate.

Results. The mean age of the participants (± standard deviation) was 14.8±1.9 years (95% confidence interval (CI) 14.7 - 14.9). Slightly over half (52.6%) were from families of middle socio-economic status, and 84.7% of them lived with their parents. Of the 2 097 participants, 1 009 (48.1%) admitted to skipping at least one meal a fortnight. Of the three main meals, breakfast was the most frequently skipped (46.3%) and dinner the least frequently skipped (21.5%). With regard to age, the frequency of skipping meals was 30.1%, 50.4% and 58.5% among participants aged <14 years, 14 - 16 years and ≥17 years, respectively (p<0.001). The two leading reasons cited by participants for skipping breakfast were lack of appetite and time. Only 15.2% of the participants reported daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. Over half of the participants (60.2%) ate fast food at least once a week, with more than three-quarters of them (76.4%) consuming fast food along with soft drinks. The prevalences of both overweight (24.5% v. 13.2%) and obesity (2.5% v. 1.1%) were higher among girls who skipped meals compared with their peers who did not skip meals (odds ratio 0.4, 95% CI 0.32 - 0.50).

Conclusion. Meal skipping was associated with an increased prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescent schoolgirls.

Authors' affiliations

Alphonsus Ndidi Onyiriuka, Department of Child Health, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria

Dominic D Umoru, Department of Paediatrics, Nyanya General Hospital, Abuja, Nigeria

Amarabia N Ibeawuchi, Department of Child Health, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria

Full Text



Adolescent girls; students; eating habits; body mass index; weight status; Nigeria

Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2013;7(3):108-112. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.529

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-10-20
Date published: 2013-08-30

Article Views

Abstract views: 5346
Full text views: 11308

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here