Most (76-85%) of Bangladeshi adolescents consume food having adequate dietary diversity, reveals the first national Adolescent Health and Wellbeing survey

Dhaka, 11 February 2021 - In Bangladesh, one in every four households have at least one adolescent (aged between 15-19 years). More than 97% of these adolescents have attended formal education institute- school, college, or madrasa at least once. Nationally, more than 90% adolescents have access to mobile phones. Seven out of ten unmarried boys own a mobile phone.  Around half of ever-married females and a quarter of unmarried girls own a cell phone.  At least half of the phones are smart phones. Almost half of unmarried males and one-fifth of married and unmarried female adolescents access the internet at least once a week.

The first ever Bangladesh Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Survey 2019-2020 came up with many such intriguing findings. The report of the nation-wide survey was launched on 11 February 2021 at the Grand Ball Room, InterContinental Dhaka. The Honourable Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) Mr Md Zahid Maleque, MP attended the event as the Chief Guest while Ms Shahan Ara Banu, ndc, Director General, Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP); Dr. Nasima Sultana, ndc, Additional Director General, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS); and Mr Xerses Sidhwa, Director, Office of Population Health and Nutrition, USAID/Bangladesh attended as Special Guests. Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Executive Director, icddr,b attended the event as Guest of Honour.  More than hundred guests, representing govt departments, development partners, NGOs, universities, and media attended the event, physically and virtually. The event was chaired by Mr Susanta Kumar Saha, Director General, National Institute of Population Research & Training (NIPORT).

The primary objective of the Bangladesh Adolescent Health and Well-being Survey 2019-2020 was to examine and understand the state of health and well-being of male and female adolescents. The final report consists of 12 chapters ranging from an array of topics including exposure to media; marriage; menstrual hygiene; gender norms; violence; mental health; nutrition and dietary diversity; and social connectedness with family and friends.

The survey also revealed that, 73% of unmarried female adolescents and 66% of unmarried male adolescents desired to know about puberty/physical changes. While adolescent girls rely on books for getting information, internet is the most availed medium of getting information for male adolescents. Nationally, majority of female adolescents had no prior knowledge about menstruation before it occurred for the first time. Almost all (98%) of both ever married and unmarried adolescents reported using either disposable products or reusable materials cleaned with water and soap/detergent during menstruation. However, the hygienic menstrual practices are very low among both ever married (9%) and unmarried (12%) adolescents. Most notably, one in four ever married and unmarried in-school adolescents missed at least one day of school during their last menstruation.

Mr Xerses Sidhwa in his remark said, “We can see from the results that the adolescents want more information on reproductive health like menstruation, puberty, and physical changes. Now is the time for us to think how we can reach these adolescents in a more efficient way. For this we would need effective multi-sectoral approach”.

As per the survey, around one in every ten unmarried adolescents are underweight and another one tenth are overweight. 76-85% of adolescents consume adequate dietary diversity, which is more than four food groups out of five comprised of fruits and vegetables, starchy food, dairy, protein and fat. Most adolescents (70-78%) also consume iron-enriched food. But only around a quarter are consuming vitamin A rich food – the survey reveals.

The Honourable Minister, Mr Zahid Maleque, MP said, “Adolescent health and wellbeing have always been a priority for the Government of Bangladesh and its ministry of health. Adolescents are our future. Nations that take care of their adolescents, thrive in future.”He stated that families and state have to come together to stop child marriage which is a major reason behind maternal and child death. The findings of the study showed that adolescent girls are still deprived of nutrition food than boys. In terms of mobile phone penetration, the disparity between adolescent boys and girls are still significant. The MoHFW has declared sanitary napkin free for girls of certain ages and this decision needs to be widely publicized and utilized, stressed the Minister.

The survey revealed that, among ever-married adolescents, 97% are currently married, while 3% of adolescents aged 15-19 are separated, divorced, or widowed. 17% of currently married girls have been married for four years or more. Regarding spousal age difference, 30% of female adolescents have an age difference of 10 or more years with their husband. The highest proportion of female adolescents with a spousal age difference of 10 years or more is among those in the highest wealth quintile (45%) – the survey finds.

Over one third (34%) of ever married females and one fifth (18%) of unmarried females perceived that the husband has the right to beat his wife when she does not listen to him. In case of sexual harassment, it is very shocking that88% unmarried female adolescents experience sexual harassment while commuting on the road and 19% experience this at schools.

The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 72,800households, and 67,093 household (98%) were successfully interviewed. A total of 4,926 ever married female (97% response rate), 7,800 unmarried female (94% response rate), and 5,523 unmarried male (85% response rate) adolescents were interviewed. Data collection started on July 25, 2019 and was completed on January 10, 2020.

icddr,b monitored data collection with 18 independent field monitoring officers and four quality control teams that accompanied the data collection teams, observed household and individual interviews, and re-interviewed selected sections of individual and household questionnaires along with observations. They also provided feedback as and when necessary and followed individual interview completion status through a mobile app.

The survey was led by the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT) with technical assistance from Research for Decision Makers (RDM) project of icddr,b and Data for Impact (D4I) of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The survey was funded by the Government of Bangladesh, USAID/Bangladesh and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government (formerly known as DFID).


For further information, please contact: Shusmita Khan, D4I (Phone: 01713209091).