Aging, Disability and Disease in India

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Paper Abstract: 
Obtaining detailed evidence on disabilities and their covariates is important as India’s elderly population (60 years or more) is growing three times faster than the population as a whole. This study is the first of its kind to provide an analysis of disability and its covariates among the elderly in 2012, based on the India Human Development Survey 2015, a nationally representative panel survey. Our analysis throws light on factors associated with (reported) disabilities in 2012.Given better reporting of disabilities in 2012, we examine the role of their covariates in 2005. Variations in both disabilities by count and type are analysed. Based on probit and ordered probit specifications, we find that vulnerability of the elderly people to (reported) disabilities in 2012 is associated with important covariates in 2005: a largely rural population, low assets, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), disabilities, lack of school education, widowhood, aging, and lack of participation in social networks. Similar associations are found for variations in disabilities by type in 2012, using the covariates in 2005..Thus disabilities are not just a medical or social problem but an outcome of their interplay. While the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is laudable in its intent and procedural detail, it is largely silent on disabilities among the elderly. A major overhaul of the health system is proposed to address better the disabilities of India’s aging population.