Malnutrition among women of reproductive age is a significant public health concern in low- A nd middle-income countries. Of particular concern are undernutrition from underweight and iron deficiency, along with overweight and obesity, all of which have negative health consequences for mothers and children. Accumulating evidence suggests that risk for poor nutritional outcomes may be mitigated by social support, yet how social support is measured varies tremendously and its effects likely vary by age, kinship and reproductive status. We examine the effects of different measures of social support on weight and iron nutrition among 677 randomly sampled women from rural Bangladesh. While we find that total support network size mitigates risk for underweight, other results point to a potential tradeoff in the effects of kin proximity, with nearby adult children associated with both lower risk for underweight and obesity and higher risk for iron deficiency and anaemia. Social support from kin may then enhance energy balance but not diet quality. Results also suggest that a woman's network of caregivers might reflect their greater need for help, as those who received more help with childcare and housework had worse iron nutrition. Overall, although some findings support the hypothesis that social support can be protective, others emphasize that social relationships often have neutral or negative effects, illustrating the kinds of tradeoffs expected from an evolutionary perspective. The complexities of these effects deserve attention in future work, particularly within public health, where what is defined as 'social support' is often assumed to be positive. This article is part of the theme issue 'Multidisciplinary perspectives on social support and maternal-child health'.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|State||Published - Jun 21 2021|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)