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Global Development Institute

Aging, disability and disease in India

Veena S. Kulkarni, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha

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 its population as a whole. This study is the first of its kind to provide an analysis of disability and its covariates among the elderly during 2005–12, based on the India Human Development Survey 2015, a nationally representative panel survey. Our econometric analysis throws light on why an increase in life expectancy among the aged has not translated into healthier lives. Based on an ordered probit specification, the reasons for this include the greater vulnerability of the older age group and elderly women, a largely rural population, low assets, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), lack of participation in social networks and a rise in the prevalence of single and multiple disabilities. Although the evidence is not detailed or conclusive, an expansion of morbidity among the aged cannot be ruled out. 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.

Keywords 

Aging, activities of daily living (ADLs), disabilities, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mortality

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