Selected indicators of nutritional status among rural elderly females in Malaysia
The purpose of this study was to investigate nutritional status indicators of elderly Malay females in selected rural areas in Malaysia by examining food consumption patterns, perceptions about food, health indices, anthropometric measurements, and selected demographic and descriptive variables. A sample of 317 healthy elderly female respondents aged 55 years and over was selected from two sub-districts in the state of Negri Sembilan. Personal interviews were conducted in the local language by the researcher and five trained interviewers in the homes of the respondents. Selected anthropometric measurements were also obtained, including weight; standing, sitting, and knee height; arm span; waist, hip, and mid-arm circumference; triceps skinfold thickness; and hand grip strength. The findings revealed that the rural elderly females were in relatively good health, living in relatively good physical environments, and participating actively in their families and communities. The food expenditure and food purchasing patterns were quite varied. The frequency of food intake revealed the consumption of a variety of food items common to the Malaysian diet. Although three of the major food groups were well represented in the high food-use category, the consumption of milk and milk products was negligible. Perceptions and beliefs about the health characteristics of certain foods were quite prevalent among the respondents. The nutritional status of the elderly women, as reflected by anthropometric assessment, revealed several trends. Most of the indicators of stature and adiposity correlated negatively and significantly with age. Whether the decline of these indicators with age is truly biological or secular in origin is not clear. Mean values for selected anthropometric measurements are comparable to other Malaysian and Asian women of the same age living in similar environments. However, both obesity and underweight were found in this sample. In general, the Malaysian elderly females weighed less, were shorter, and had lower values for triceps skinfold thickness, mid-arm girth, and body mass index than a national sample of U.S. white females of comparable age.