Nutrition and health

Poverty can be both a cause and a consequence of ill health – resulting in a vicious circle that is very hard to break. The effects of child malnutrition are far reaching. Besides the risk of stunting, children who go hungry are likely to suffer from poor concentration, low self-esteem, and fatigue which can affect their outcomes in other areas, especially learning. Poor families that fall ill are pulled into deeper poverty as they struggle to meet the costs of healthcare and deal with loss of income.

Young Lives is contributing to a body of compelling evidence on the short- and long-term impacts of under-nutrition and ill health. By following the same children over a long period of time, we can trace what inequalities exist in children’s health and nutrition and how they affect their physical, social and cognitive development. For example, a strand of research funded by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation is looking at whether and how some children are able to recover from stunting and the effect on their cognitive outcomes.

We look at each child’s diet, height and weight; injury, chronic and disabling conditions; access to healthcare; self-rated health status; and the health status of other household members. Recently we began to collect data on adolescent health risk behaviours (tobacco and alcohol use, emotional well-being, experience of violence, and sexual health) from our groups of older children aged 15 and over.

What's New

Economics and Human Biology_cover'Height in Mid Childhood and Psychosocial Competencies in Late Childhood', Economics & Human Biology, in press (corrected proof available online 8 April 2013)

WP117-Behrman-et-alIntergenerational Transmission of Poverty and Inequality, Young Lives Working Paper 117

WP111-SanchezThe Structural Relationship between Nutrition, Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills: Evidence from Four Developing Countries, Young Lives Working Paper 111



'Cohort Profile: The Young Lives Study', International Journal of Epidemiology 42.3: 701-8




'Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Injuries to Adolescents Growing Up in Poverty', Health Policy and Planning 29.1: 67-75

Our research agenda: Nutrition

Our ongoing research strategy and where Young Lives can contribute are set out in our Nutrition research agenda.

We need to end child poverty in order to break the cycle of poverty.