Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 2023

Prevalence of malnutrition among older adults in a population-based study – The HUNT Study

Background: Malnutrition is common in older adults and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates.

Aim: The aim of the study is to describe the prevalence of malnutrition based on low BMI, involuntary weight loss, and reduced food intake, in a Norwegian population of community-dwelling older adults and older adults living in nursing homes.

Methods: This population-based study is part of the fourth wave of the Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT4) and includes participants ≥70 years from the HUNT4 70+ cohort. The HUNT4 70+ cohort consist of 9 930 (response rate 51.2 %) participants. In the current study 8 127 older people had complete dataset for inclusion in the analyses. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire and standardised interviews and clinical assessments at field stations, in participants’ homes or at nursing homes. Malnutrition was defined using the following criteria: low BMI, involuntary weight loss and severely reduced food intake. The standardised prevalence of malnutrition was estimated using inverse probability weighting (IPW) with weights for sex, age and education of the total population in the catchment area of HUNT.

Results: Of the 8 127 included participants, 7 671 (94.4 %) met at field stations, 356 (4.4 %) were examined in their home, and 100 (1.2 %) in nursing homes. In total, 14.3 % of the population were malnourished based on either low BMI, weight loss, or reduced food intake, of which low BMI was the most frequently fulfilled criterion. The prevalence of malnutrition was less common among men than among women (10.1 vs 18.0 %, p < 0.001), also after adjustment for age (OR 0.53, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.46-0.60). The prevalence increased gradually with increasing age and the regression analysis adjusted for sex showed that for each year increase in age the prevalence of malnutrition increased with 4.0 % (OR 1.04, 95 % CI 1.03-1.05). The prevalence was higher both among older adults examined in their homes (26.4%) and residents in nursing home (23.6%), as compared to community-dwelling older adults who met at field stations (13.5%).

Conclusion: The prevalence of malnutrition is high in the older population. Special attention on prevention and treatment of malnutrition should be given to older women, the oldest age groups, and care-dependent community-dwelling older adults and nursing home residents.


Marit Kolberg, Ingvild Paur, Yi-Qian Sun, Linda Gjøra, Håvard Kjesbu Skjellegrind, Pernille Thingstad, Bjørn Heine Strand, Geir Selbæk, Tone Natland Fagerhaug & Lene Thoresen

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