Influence of malnutrition upon all-cause mortality among children in Swaziland

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Objective: To analyze the effect of the type of malnutrition, sex, age and the presence of edema upon all-cause mortality in children under 5 years of age. Material and methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted during 2010 and 2011 in Swaziland. Sex, age, weight and height were taken to classify nutritional status according to the 2006 WHO growth standards: stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height or low body mass index for age) and underweight (low weight for age). The sample (309 boys and 244 girls under 5 years of age) was analyzed by sex and age groups (under and equal/over 12 months). The association between variables was evaluated using the 2 test. Cox regression analysis (HR, 95% CI) was used to assess the likelihood of mortality. Results: The mortality risk in malnourished children under one year of age was lower among females and increased in the presence of severe edema. Wasting combined with underweight increased the mortality risk in children under 12 months of age 5-fold, versus 11-fold in older children. The combination of stunting, wasting and underweight was closely associated to mortality. Stunting alone (not combined with wasting) did not significantly increase the mortality risk. Conclusions: Sex, severe edema and wasting are predictors of mortality in malnourished children. Regardless of these factors, children with deficiencies referred to weight for height and weight for age present a greater mortality risk in comparison with children who present stunting only.