Sociodemographic correlates of food habits among school adolescents (1215 year) in north Gaza Strip

Abudayya, Abdallah H
Stigum, Hein
Shi, Zumin
Abed, Yehia
Holmboe-Ottesen, Gerd
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Background: There is little information about meal patterns and food consumption of adolescents in Palestine. The objective of this study was to describe the association between sociodemographic factors and food intake, and meal patterns among Palestinian school adolescents (12–15 year) in North Gaza Strip. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2002 comprising 944 subjects in 10 schools in Gaza city, Jabalia village and Jabalia refugee camp. Self-administered questionnaires were filled in by students and parents to obtain data on frequency of meals, food intake and sociodemographic characteristics. Results: High household socioeconomic status (SES) was associated with the increased number of meals and the increased intakes of many nutritious foods such as; animal food items, fruits and vegetables and dairy foods. The percentage of adolescents having breakfast daily of high and low SES was 74.5% vs 55% in boys and 65.6% vs 45% in girls. The percentage of girls with refugee status who had lunch was higher (90.2%) compared to the local citizen girls (83.9%), (p = 0.03). Girls were less likely to skip daily lunch (OR = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.36–0.87, p = 0.01) compared to boys. Risk of skipping lunch was three times higher among adolescents living in the village compared to Gaza well-off area (OR = 3.3, 95% CI = 1.72–6.31, p < 0.001). Adolescents who were having lunch daily were less likely to skip breakfast or dinner. Only 11.6% of boys and 16.2% of girls consumed fruits daily. In multivariate analysis, SES was positively associated with food frequency intake scores in both genders. Boys from the refugee camp and the village had a significant higher consumption of fruits and vegetables than boys from high and low income area in Gaza City, while it was the opposite in girls. Conclusion: Meal skipping is common, particularly among those of low SES and the intakes of many nutritious foods such as animal food items, fruits and vegetables and dairy foods seem to be low among adolescents of low SES. The results of this study could be used as an important baseline for future monitoring of the nutritional situation of adolescents.