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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

Overweight and obesity among women: analysis of demographic and health survey data from 32 Sub-Saharan African Countries

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Subas Neupane, Prakash K.C., David Teye Doku
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SN and DTD conceptualized the study, developed the analytical strategy. SN conducted the statistical analysis and drafted the methods and result sections. DTD drafted the introduction and discussion sections and contributed to the methods sections. PK contributed in cleaning the data and statistical analysis. SN and DTD together wrote the first draft of the report. All authors did the critical revision of the manuscript and approved the final version.



Overweight and obesity are risk factors for many chronic diseases globally. However, the extent of the problem in low-income countries like Sub-Saharan Africa is unclear. We assessed the magnitude and disparity of both phenomena by place of residence, level of education and wealth quintile using cross-sectional data from 32 countries.


Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data collected in 32 Sub-Saharan African countries between January 2005 and December 2013 were used. A total of 250651 women (aged 15–49 years) were analyzed. Trained personnel using a standardized procedure measured body weight and height. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated by dividing body weight by height squared. Prevalence of overweight (25.0–29.9 kg/m2) and obesity (≥30.0 kg/m2) were estimated for each country. Analysis of the relationships of overweight and obesity with place of residence, education and wealth index were carried out using logistic regression.


The pooled prevalence of overweight for the region was 15.9 % (95 % CI, 15.7–16.0) with the lowest in Madagascar 5.6 % (95 % CI, 5.1–6.1) and the highest in Swaziland 27.7 % (95 % CI, 26.4–29.0). Similarly, the prevalence of obesity was also lowest in Madagascar 1.1 % (95 % CI, 0.9–1.4) and highest in Swaziland 23.0 (95 % CI, 21.8–24.2). The women in urban residence and those who were classified as rich, with respect to the quintile of the wealth index, had higher likelihood of overweight and obesity. In the pooled results, high education was significantly associated with overweight and obesity.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity varied highly between the countries and wealth index (rich vs. poor) was found to be the strongest predictor in most of the countries. Interventions that will address the socio-cultural barriers to maintaining healthy body size can contribute to curbing the overweight and obesity epidemic in Africa.
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