Maternal mental health is associated with child undernutrition and illness in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia

Phuong H. Nguyen, Kuntal K. Saha, Disha Ali, Purnima Menon, Swetha Manohar, Lan Tran Mai, Rahul Rawat, Marie T. Ruel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective We assessed associations of maternal common mental disorders (CMD) with undernutrition and two common illnesses in children aged 0-5 years. Design Cross-sectional survey. Maternal CMD was measured using the WHO Self-Reporting Questionnaire-20. Child undernutrition was defined as stunting, underweight or wasting. Child illnesses included diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections (ARI). Multivariate logistic regression was used to test these associations adjusting for confounders at child, maternal and household levels. Setting Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Subjects Mothers with children aged 0-5 years from 4400 households in Bangladesh, 4029 households in Vietnam and 3000 households in Ethiopia. Results The prevalence of maternal CMD was high, ranging from 31 % in Vietnam to 49 % in Bangladesh. Child undernutrition was more prevalent in Bangladesh and Ethiopia than in Vietnam. Symptoms of ARI and diarrhoea were also prevalent. In multivariate analysis, maternal CMD was associated with child stunting in Bangladesh (OR = 1·21; 95 % CI 1·03, 1·41) and with child underweight in Vietnam (OR = 1·27; 95 % CI 1·01, 1·61); no association was found with wasting. Maternal CMD was strongly associated with diarrhoea and ARI in all three countries. Conclusions Maternal CMD, which affected nearly half of women in Bangladesh and one-third in Vietnam, was an important determinant of child stunting and underweight, respectively. No such association was found in Ethiopia, although CMD affected 39 % of women. Maternal CMD was strongly associated with childhood illnesses in all three countries. Interventions to support maternal mental health are important for women's own well-being and could make important contributions to improving child health and nutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1318-1327
Number of pages10
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bangladesh
  • Child illness
  • Child undernutrition
  • Ethiopia
  • Maternal mental health
  • Vietnam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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