Growing Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in India

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Paper Abstract: 
The present study provides detailed evidence on NCDs and their covariates. This is particularly relevant in the present Indian context, as the elderly population ≥ 60 years is growing three times faster than the population as a whole. It is projected that the percentage of elderly people will more than double between 2010-2050. Alongside, old age morbidity (NCDs and their multi-morbidities) has risen significantly during 2004-2014. Using National Sample Survey data for 2004 and 2014, and ordered probit models, the underlying covariates are uncovered. There is a marked shift of NCDs and multi-morbidities from the younger to the old population. Some of the covariates associated with lower prevalence of NCDs and their multi-morbidities include women, education, physical activity, drinking water through tubewells and hand pumps, Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (the lowest rung of socio-economic hierarchy), while those associated with higher prevalences include urbanisation, widowed and divorced/separated, and being affluent. Above all, there is a (residual) positive time effect confirming higher prevalences of NCDs and their multi-morbidities. On current evidence, given the increases in life expectancy, it is uncertain whether the additional years have translated into healthier and longer lives or longer years of morbidity. The policy challenge, however, is daunting, requiring greater funding for health care, reorientation of the health care system to serve the old better and tackle the growing burden of NCDs and their multi-morbidities, expansion of pension and health insurance, and behavioural changes (e.g., curbing of alcohol consumption, smoking and lifestyle changes) necessary for healthy living.