People in India live longer now compared to 1990 as life expectancy has increased by 6.9 years for men between 1990 and 2013 and 10.3 years for women during the same period, notes a study published today in the journal The Lancet.

Increase in life expectancy is more in the case of women than men. In 1990, the life expectance was 57.25 years for men, and 59.19 years for women. This has now increased to 64.16 years for men and 68.48 years for women in 2013. “Biologically, women are considered stronger and their survival tendencies are better than men. But sociologically, women tend to get treated far less than men in India,” said Dr. Nobhojit Roy, surgeon and public health specialist from BARC Hospital, Mumbai

However, healthy life expectancy has increased more slowly with diseases such as ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and neonatal disorders causing the most health loss in India.

The healthy life expectancy has been more for women than men in India. For instance, in the case of men, the healthy life expectancy has increased from 50.07 years in 1990 to 56.52 years in 2013 while in the case of women it has been from 50.15 years in 1990 to 59.11 years in 2013.

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

For Indian men, the fastest-growing leading causes of health loss between 1990 and 2013 were self-harm, ischemic heart disease and stroke, which increased at rates of 149.9 per cent, 79.9 per cent, and 59.8 per cent respectively. While self-harm did not figure among India’s top ten causes of health loss in 1990, it is ranked tenth in men in 2013. Iron-deficiency anaemia, which was ranked ninth in 1990 in men, is no longer the cause of health loss in 2013.

In the case of women, the largest increases among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years occurred for 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 are new causes of health loss seen 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 Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“The big jump in life expectancy is in keeping with the development of the country,” said Roy. “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. Obesity and high blood pressure are the leading risk factors for heart diseases and stroke.”

On TB continuing to be among the top five leading causes of disease burden in India in 2013, Dr. Swaminathan said: “Globally TB has gone down but not in India. India hasn’t been as successful as it should have been in controlling it. We can’t ignore TB and other infectious diseases just because lifestyle diseases are growing.”

To tackle the disease burden in a better way, the ICMR and the Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) along with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are planning to carry out 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 the diseases in the States. This will help each State to know the major diseases and risk factors.”

Source: The Hindu, CHENNAI, August 27, 2015