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Two-third Indians with non-communicable diseases fall in 26-59 age group, survey finds

Diabetes & hypertension more prevalent among people aged 50+ while neurological disorders more prevalent in age group of 35 and below, survey by Thought Arbitrage Research Institute shows. 

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New Delhi: More than two-thirds of people suffering from non-communicable disease (NCDs) in India are in the 26-59 age group, the “most productive-life age groups”, a new survey released Thursday finds.

What is alarming is that such diseases increase after 18 years and show a quantum leap when an individual crosses the age of 35 — a grim prognosis for India given that 65 per cent of the country’s population is below 35 years of age so the burden will be “long-lasting”.

Diabetes and hypertension show higher prevalence in those who are 50 years and above while brain/neurological disorders show higher prevalence in the age group 35 years and below.

The sample size of the report, prepared by Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI), included 23,3672 people and 673 public health offices in 21 states in India.

The report defines NCDs as diseases or conditions that occur in, or are known to affect, individuals over an extensive period of time and for which there are no known causative agents that are transmitted from one affected individual to another.

Also read: 4th sero survey finds 2 of 3 Indians with Covid antibodies, but still avoid crowds, ICMR warns

Key NCDs and their prevalence

According to the survey, every 116 out of 1,000 Indians suffer from the top three NCDs such as hypertension, digestive disease, and diabetes among other illnesses such as respiratory diseases, brain/neurological disorders, heart diseases/cardiovascular diseases, kidney disorders, and cancer.

Hypertension is the most prevalent among these eight NCDs in India with 3.6 per cent respondents suffering from it, followed by digestive diseases with 3.2 per cent and diabetes with 2.9 per cent while cancer was the least prevalent NCD at a mere 0.1 per cent.

The risk of having NCDs among the population is almost four times as they move from the age of 25 toward the 50s. Seventy-year-olds and above have the highest risk of having an NCD — every two out of five persons, according to the report.

“High prevalence of NCDs is generally associated with comorbidity, that is, many a time two or more diseases may affect a person together,” the survey noted.

In the Correlation Matrix of Non-Communicable Diseases, the study notes that hypertension has the highest comorbidity with almost all NCDs, followed by diabetes, kidney and digestive disorders, and respiratory diseases, while cancer and kidney disease were found to have lower comorbidity.

While the survey mentions that genetic and hereditary factors have an “overwhelming impact” on the prevalence of NCDs, it says the factors of causality cannot directly be determined with certainty with an individual or group of diseases.

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Risk factors contributing to NCD

The survey identified air pollution (76 per cent) as the most prevalent risk factor contributing to NCDs, followed by low physical activity (67 per cent), imbalanced diet (55 per cent), stress (44 per cent) and obesity and Body Mass Index BMI (24 per cent).

Tobacco (16 per cent) and alcohol consumption (9 per cent) do not play a significant role in the occurrence of any particular NCD, the survey noted.

Prevalence across different geographies 

The survey showed that the prevalence of NCDs is less in the northern, central and western regions of India — with prevalence lower than the national average — while noting a quite high prevalence in lesser developed regions of India including eastern and north-east regions.

Among states, Odisha was found to have the highest prevalence of NCDs, with every 272 per 1,000 population having suffered from any such NCDs while Gujarat registered the lowest prevalence — 60 per 1,000.

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal were other states where NCD prevalence was higher than the national average, calling for state-specific strategies to tackle NCDs.

Rural and urban divide

While NCDs affect both rural and urban populations, the report, however, found a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes in urban areas due to migration and differences in living conditions, than in rural areas.

Family structure also has a bearing on the prevalence of NCDs as individuals from nuclear families are more prone to NCDs in comparison to joint families due to more workload and perhaps higher stress.

The survey also found males to be more prone to contracting NCDs than females except in case of hypertension and neurological disorders which are more prevalent in women. The prevalence of NCD among males is 119 for every 1,000 men while for females it is 113 for every 1,000 women.

More than 40 per cent of the population surveyed was unaware they had been suffering from NCD for over three years. The battle against NCDs “is half won if symptoms are detected early”, the report added.

To check the alarming rise in the number of NCDs, it is essential “to significantly increase public expenditure on healthcare”, the report said. With variation across different states, the report, among other requirements, suggests the need to focus on specific measures that work in each state.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: Over 1.1 lakh Indian children lost a parent during Covid pandemic, Lancet study says


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