Adolescent girls' health, nutrition and wellbeing in rural eastern India: a descriptive, cross-sectional community-based study

Kelly Rose-Clarke, Hemanta Pradhan, Suchitra Rath, Shibanand Rath, Subhashree Samal, Sumitra Gagrai, Nirmala Nair, Prasanta Tripathy, Audrey Prost

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India is home to 243 million adolescents. Two million (9%) of them belong to Scheduled Tribes living in underserved, rural areas. Few studies have examined the health of tribal adolescents. We conducted a cross-sectional survey to assess the health, nutrition and wellbeing of adolescent girls in rural Jharkhand, eastern India, a state where 26% of the population is from Scheduled Tribes. We aimed to identify priorities for community interventions to serve adolescents and their families. 


Between June 2016 and January 2017, interviewers visited all households in 50 purposively sampled villages of West Singhbhum district, Jharkhand. They aimed to interview all girls aged 10-19. Interviewers conducted face-to-face interviews with girls to administer a survey about physical and mental health, disability, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health, gender norms, decision-making, education and violence. Interviewers also measured girls' height, weight, and Mid-Upper Arm Circumference. 


Interviewers collected data from 3324 (82%) of an estimated 4068 girls residing in the study area. Their mean age was 14.3 (SD 2.9). 82% were from Scheduled Tribes. 89% of younger girls aged 10-14 and 46% of older girls aged 15-19 were in school or college. Girls dropped out of school because they were required for household work (37%) or work on the family farm or business (22%). Over a third reported symptoms of anaemia in the past month, but less than a fifth had a blood test. The prevalence of thinness (<-2SD median BMI for age and sex) was 14% for younger girls and 6% for older girls. 45% of girls were stunted (<-2SD median height for age and sex). 40% reported emotional violence in the past year, 14% physical violence, and 0.7% sexual violence. 12% had problems associated with depression or anxiety. 30% aged 15-19 had heard of contraception. Among married girls and their husbands, only 10% had ever used methods to prevent or delay pregnancy. 


Our study identified several priorities to improve adolescent girls' health, nutrition and wellbeing in largely tribal areas of Jharkhand: reducing violence, early marriage and undernutrition, as well as improving mental health, knowledge about contraception and school retention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number673
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019


  • Adolescent health
  • Education
  • India
  • Menstrual hygiene
  • Mental health
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Undernutrition
  • Violence


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