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Malawi Medical Journal
College of Medicine, University of Malawi and Medical Association of Malawi
ISSN: 1995-7262
Vol. 27, No. 2, 2015, pp. 41-44
Bioline Code: mm15012
Full paper language: English
Document type: Research Article
Document available free of charge

Malawi Medical Journal, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2015, pp. 41-44

 en Anthropometric characteristics and the burden of altered nutritional status among neuropsychiatric patients at Zomba Mental Hospital in Zomba, Malawi
Mhango, S. N.; Kalimbira, A. & Mwagomba, B.


Objective To determine the prevalence of overnutrition and undernutrition among neuropsychiatric inpatients and outpatients at Zomba Mental Hospital in Zomba, Malawi.
Methods In this analytical cross-sectional study (n = 239), data were collected from psychiatric patients who were either inpatients (n = 181) or outpatients (n = 58) at Zomba Mental Hospital, which is the largest mental health facility in Malawi. Information was collected about patient demographics, anthropometric data, dietary information, and tobacco and alcohol use, among other variables. Data were entered and analysed in SPSS 16.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Means were generated and compared between male and female patients, and between inpatients and outpatients.
Results The study recruited 158 male and 81 female patients, with mean ages of 31.24 ± 11.85 years and 33.08 ± 15.18 years (p = 0.328), respectively. Male patients were significantly taller (165.27 ± 7.25 cm) than female patients (155.30 ± 6.56 cm) (p < 0.001); were significantly heavier than females (60.02 ± 10.56 kg versus 55.64 ± 10.53 kg); and had a significantly lower mean body mass index (BMI) than females (21.87 ± 3.21 vs. 23.01 ± 3.78) (p = 0.016). Overweight and obese patients comprised 17.6% of the participants, and 8.8% were underweight. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and underweight between male and female participants, or between inpatients and outpatients.
Conclusion Our study—the first one of its kind in Malawi—characterised the anthropometry of neuropsychiatric patients at a major metal health facility in Malawi, and has shown a high proportion of overweight patients and a notable presence of underweight patients among them. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for metabolic disorders. Being underweight may aggravate mental illness or disturb the effect of medication. There is need, therefore, to include nutrition screening and therapeutic or supplementary feeding as part of a comprehensive care and treatment plan for neuropsychiatric patients.

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