OBJECTIVE:

Several studies have shown the adverse health consequences of food insecurity on household members. To what extent this relationship is mediated by gender among adolescents has not been documented. We hypothesized that the health consequences of food insecurity would be more pronounced in girls compared with boys.

METHODS:

We used the first-round data from a 5-year longitudinal family survey of 2084 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years from urban, semiurban, and rural areas of southwest Ethiopia. Stratified random sampling was used to select households and adolescents. Multivariable logistic regression was used to compare self-reported morbidity according to food-security status and gender after adjusting for nutritional and socioeconomic covariates.

RESULTS:

Overall, 29.9% of girls and 19.2% of boys reported illness during the previous 1 month before the survey. Food-insecure girls were twice as likely to report suffering from an illness (P < .01) compared with boys, and the risk of reported illness tripled when girls were food insecure and were part of food-insecure households (P < .01). Girls were 7.4 and 7.0 times more likely to report difficulties with activities because of poor health and having a feeling of tiredness/low energy compared with boys, respectively (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS:

We report that in a food-insecure situation, gender is an important predictor of an adolescent's self-reported health status. Food-security interventions should consider gender as a key variable to narrow the gap in health between boys and girls.

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