Factors Influencing Adolescents' Dietary Behaviors in the School and Home Environment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ursula Trübswasser*, Elise F. Talsma, Selamawit Ekubay, Maartje P. Poelman, Michelle Holdsworth, Edith J.M. Feskens, Kaleab Baye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Malnutrition affects many adolescents in Ethiopia. Over one-third of adolescent girls and two-thirds of boys are thin. Overweight and obesity in Ethiopia is mostly a concern in urban populations of higher wealth quintiles. Urbanization and globalization of diets is shifting food environments. The objective of this study was to assess whether food environments in and around schools in urban Ethiopia influence dietary diversity, quality, BMI status or perceptions of adolescents. Methods: Twelve high schools were selected in Addis Ababa (private/government). From each school, 20 pupils aged 15–19 years were randomly selected (n = 217) and interviewed about assets in their households, their diets (categorized into 10 food groups of the Minimum Dietary Diversity, the Global Dietary Recommendations scores and four categories of the NOVA classification based on level of processing) and their use of pocket money. In addition, food environment audits were conducted within the school compound and a 0.5 km radius around each school and types of food outlets. Results: On average there were 436 food outlets and 246 food or drink advertisements around each school. The majority of the advertisements (89.9%) were of ultra-processed foods, mostly sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Most were positioned on food outlets (89.1%). SSBs or sweets were visibly on display in 26.3% of the outlets and fresh fruits and vegetables in 17.9% of outlets. Dietary diversity of adolescents was poor with an average of 3.6 food groups out of 10 consumed in the last 24 h. Ultra-processed foods and beverages were consumed by 23.5% of adolescents. The majority of adolescents spent their pocket money on SSBs, sweets or fried foods. Our analysis found that higher assets in adolescents' households were associated with higher dietary diversity and consumption of healthy food groups. We found no association between the food environment and dietary indicators or the BMI-z-score. Conclusion: While the school food environments investigated were not conducive with promoting healthy dietary behaviors, we cannot conclude that these environmental factors directly influence adolescents' diets. The pervasive advertising and availability of unhealthy foods and beverages requires policy action for healthy school food environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number861463
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2022


  • adolescents
  • food advertising
  • food environment
  • food outlet
  • urban


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