Thinness, overweight, and obesity among 6- To 17-year-old Malaysians: Secular trends and sociodemographic determinants from 2006-2015

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Objective: To examine secular trends and sociodemographic determinants of thinness, overweight, and obesity among Malaysian children and adolescents in 2006-2015. Design: We used cross-sectional data from the National Health and Morbidity Surveys 2006, 2011, and 2015. Individuals were classified into pre- (6-9 years), early (10-13 years) and mid (14-17 years) adolescence. BMI status was determined according to the IOTF and WHO criteria, using measured height and weight. We analysed trends using log-binomial regression, by sex-age groups, stratified by sociodemographic factors (ethnicity, residential area, household size, household income), and accounting for the complex survey design. Associations between sociodemographic factors and prevalence of thinness and overweight (obesity included) in 2015 were assessed using log-Poisson regression. Setting: Nationwide population-based surveys, Malaysia. Participants: Eligible 6-17-year-olds from urban and rural residential areas (N=28,094). Results: The prevalence of thinness decreased from 2006 to 2015 (IOTF: boys from 22% to 18%, girls from 23% to 19%; WHO: boys from 9% to 7%, girls from 8% to 6%), while the prevalence of overweight increased (IOTF: boys from 20% to 26%, girls from 19% to 24%; WHO: boys from 25% to 31%, girls from 22% to 27%). These changes were statistically significant in most sex-age groups. Thinness and overweight co-existed in all sociodemographic subgroups, with variation in the prevalence estimates, but similar secular changes in most subgroups. Conclusions: Malaysia is facing a double burden of malnutrition at population level with a secular increase in overweight and obesity and a gradual decrease in thinness among 6-17-year-olds from varying sociodemographic backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Early online date5 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Child
  • Malaysia
  • Overweight
  • Thinness
  • Trends

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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