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Nutritional status of women affected by severe stress caused by natural disaster. The case of West Bengal, India
Natural disasters may provide opportunities for natural experiment of the effects of exposure to stress on health and nutritional status of victims. The present study is a part of a major project to assess the effect of a severe cyclone, called Aila, on the development of children who were intrauterine on the very day of the disaster on 25 May 2009 in the Sunderban Islands of India. Data of 378 mothers were analysed. Among them, 185 were from the Islands worst affected Islands and the 193 (the controls) were from the area where there was no effect of the cyclone. Participants were recruited from all the primary schools on the two Islands of the Sunderban area and the control data from the rural primary schools of the adjacent district. The populations were matched in respect of the origin, culture and language. Mothers and their children underwent a battery of anthropometric measurements and were asked to fulfil several questionnaires. Mother did not differ in age at menarche, education level and knee height. Also their husband’s education did not differ between groups. Mothers affected by Aila had smaller BMI and mid upper arm circumference (MUAC), controlling for age, level of education, family size, family income, and level of experienced stress in last year assessed by the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. In conclusion, a severe stress caused by natural disaster had long lasting effect on women’s nutritional status and probably raised their sensibility and made hyperreactivity to stress conditions.