Only 18.9 per cent of the elderly people had health insurance and therefore they may not be able to bear large expenditures on health, revealed a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. It also stated that 27.5 per cent of people whose age is 80 years or above are immobile and 70 per cent of elders are partially or wholly financially dependent on others.
The survey has been conducted based on the 75th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2017-18 and published in the journal Globalization and Health. The NSS survey was conducted on 1,13,823 households and 555,115 individuals from randomly selected 8,077 villages and 6,181 urban areas. The results showed that disparities exist in health status as well as healthcare access of elderly people across the country.
It was undertaken by Prof VR Muraleedharan, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, and Dr Alok Ranjan, a post-doctoral student at IIT Madras till December 2020 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Jodhpur.
The vulnerability of India’s elderly increases across economic levels, and other dimensions such as the place of residence, gender, social group (caste), marital status, living arrangements, surviving children, and economic dependence, the survey stated.
The Covid-19 pandemic poses a greater risk of social isolation among the elderly, which may cause detrimental health impact apart from missed treatments and unavailability of drugs. Diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular issues are other factors that lead to health challenges in the elderly. Most of the elderly have either one or more of these underlying conditions, apart from a weak immune system they are likely to have.
The pandemic made access to healthcare facilities more difficult and unlike the young, the elderly may have also struggled to adapt to tele-consultations and online shopping.
Elaborating on the important findings of the study, Prof Muraleedharan said, “Our research highlights ways in which the elderly may have suffered even due to COVID-19 control measures, such as social/physical distancing that could increase depression, and lead to a higher chance of inflammatory response in the elderly.”