Women live four years longer than men in India

People in India live significantly longer now compared with 1990. Life expectancy increased by 6.9 years for men and 10.3 years for women between 1990 and 2013, notes a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet .

In 1990, the figures were 57.25 for men and 59.19 for women. This rose to 64.16 and 68.48 respectively by 2013.

Healthy life expectancy too is for women. For men, it increased from 50.07 in 1990 to 56.52 in 2013, while for women it rose from 50.15 to 59.11. Ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis and neonatal disorders caused the most health loss.

In 2013, the top 10 causes of disability-adjusted life years in both sexes in India were from ischemic heart disease, COPD, TB, lower respiratory tract infections, neonatal pre-term birth, neonatal encephalopathy, diarrhoea, stroke, road injuries, and low back and neck pain.

For men, the leading causes of health loss between 1990 and 2013 were self-harm, ischemic heart disease and stroke, which increased at rates of 149.9, 79.9 and 59.8 per cent respectively. Self-harm did not figure among India’s top 10 causes in 1990 but was ranked 10th in men in 2013. Iron-deficiency anaemia, ranked ninth in 1990 in men, was no longer a cause by 2013.

For women, the largest increases among leading causes of disability-adjusted life years occurred owing to ischemic heart disease (69 per cent), depressive disorders (66.1 per cent), and stroke (36.8 per cent). Only ischemic heart disease was among the 10 leading causes of health loss for women in 1990. Stroke and depressive disorders were the causes of health loss recorded in 2013 but not in 1990 in Indian women. “More awareness of mental health issues and better detection and documentation could be one of the reasons for depressive disorders to show up in the list,” said Soumya Swaminathan, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research and a co-author of the journal paper.

“The big jump in life expectancy is in keeping with the development of the country,” said Nobhojit Roy, surgeon and public health specialist from BARC Hospital, Mumbai, and a co-author. “But the downside is that diseases that were not seen in 1990 are seen now. India is transitioning and inheriting some of the diseases seen in the developed countries.”

In order to tackle the disease burden better, the ICMR and the Public Health Foundation of India, along with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, are planning a disease burden study at the State level. “It will help in better health planning, policy framing and fund allocation,” Dr. Swaminathan said. “We will also look at the risk factors for diseases in the States. This will help each State to know the major diseases and risk factors.”

Published in The Hindu on August 27, 2015