The influence of socio-demographic factors on the nutritional status of children in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape

  • Anna Petronella Kirsten Stellenbosch University
  • Debbi Marais University of Aberdeen
  • Claudia Schübl Tygerberg Hospital
Keywords: nutritional intake, socio-demographic, obesity, children


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity, as well as socio-demographic risk factors associated with childhood overweight and obesity in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape province. Design: A cross-sectional, comparison study was conducted. Setting and subjects: A representative group of 638 children (aged 6-13 years) attending three randomly selected Stellenbosch primary schools. An additional school was selected for the pilot study. In the screening (first) phase, children were weighed and measured to calculate body mass index using international obesity task force guidelines to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity. For the comparison (second) phase of the study, only 24 overweight and obese children and 21 children of normal weight (comparison group) (n = 45) were included. Outcome measures: Socio-demographic and eating behaviour data were collected using a structured questionnaire and compared between the overweight and obese group and the comparison group (normal weight) to identify associated risk factors. Results: The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 13%, of which 9% (n = 57) were overweight and 4% (n = 27) obese in the screening phase. In the comparison phase, socio-economic factors, such as maternal employment hours (p-value = 0.0462); family characteristics, such as the number of children in the household (p-value = 0.0231); and time spent participating in sport (p-value = 0.0450); were significantly associated with overweight or obesity. Conclusion: Preventative initiatives should proactively promote healthy eating behaviour and physical activity in children at an early age, based on previous research, particularly in girls. Involving families and schools in these initiatives is recommended, as well as a national childhood obesity monitoring system to identify children at risk, and tracking childhood obesity trends to guide evidence-based interventions to tackle this growing public health issue.

Author Biographies

Anna Petronella Kirsten, Stellenbosch University
MSc Clinical Dietitian Division of Human Nutrition Stellenbosch University
Debbi Marais, University of Aberdeen
PhD Senior Teaching Fellow Division of Applied Health Sciences University of Aberdeen
Claudia Schübl, Tygerberg Hospital
B Nutrition Assistant Director Division of Human Nutrition Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Tygerberg Academic Hospital; and Stellenbosch University
How to Cite
Kirsten, A., Marais, D., & Schübl, C. (2013). The influence of socio-demographic factors on the nutritional status of children in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(3), 124-131. Retrieved from
Original Research