To determine the frequency of iron deficiency and anaemia in high school students.
The survey was carried out at eight Auckland high schools with a high proportion (> or =15%) of Pacific Islands students. All students in Forms 5-7 at these schools were invited to participate, and 1644 students (Pacific Island 765, Asian 350, European 295, Maori 234) had iron assessments (response rate 61%). Iron deficiency was defined as any two (or more) of the following, three: serum ferritin <12 microg/L, iron saturation <14%, or red cell distribution width >14.5%. Anaemia was defined as haemoglobin <120 g/L for females and <130 g/L for males.
Iron deficiency and anaemia were each ten times more common in girls (18.3% and 11.5%, respectively) than boys (1.5% and 1.4%). In females, iron deficiency was two to three times more common in Maori (25.6%), Pacific Islanders (20.9%) and Asians (15.4%) compared with Europeans (8.3 %), while anaemia was three to four times more common in Asians (15.9%), Pacific Islanders (12.1%) and Maori (11.2%) compared with Europeans (4.2%). Iron deficiency and anaemia prevalences were inversely associated with aerobic fitness, but not with age or years since menarche.
Prevalences of iron deficiency and anaemia are high in non-European female adolescents in Auckland, for reasons currently unknown.