Malnutrition rates in chile from the nitrate era to the 1990s

Manuel Llorca-Jaña, Diego Barría Traverso, Diego Del Barrio Vásquez, Javier Rivas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Following Salvatore and the WHO, in this article, we provide the first long-term estimates of malnutrition rates for Chile per birth cohort, measured through stunting rates of adult males born from the 1870s to the 1990s. We used a large sample of military records, representative of the whole Chilean population, totalling over 38 thousand individuals. Our data suggest that stunting rates were very high for those born between the last three decades of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century. In addition, stunting rates increased from the 1870s to the 1900s. Thereafter, there was a clear downward trend in stunting rates (despite some fluctuations), reaching low levels of malnutrition, in particular, from the 1960s (although these are high if compared to developed countries). The continuous decrease in stunting rates from the 1910s was mainly due to a combination of factors, the importance of which varied over time, namely: Improved health (i.e., sharp decline in infant mortality rates during the whole period); increased energy consumption (from the 1930s onwards, but most importantly during the 1990s); a decline in poverty rates (in particular, between the 1930s and the 1970s); and a reduction in child labour (although we are less able to quantify this).

Original languageEnglish
Article number13112
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number24
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropometry
  • Chile
  • Height
  • Malnutrition
  • Stunting rates


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