In Tamil Nadu, chronic joint pain most common complaint among old people; in Kerala, hypertension

According to a study conducted on the elderly populations of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the most common self-reported ailment in Tamil Nadu was chronic joint pain while in Kerala hypertension had the highest prevalence.

The study showed that over 57 per cent of elderly people in Kerala suffered from hypertension and 32 from diabetes while the percentage for these non-communicable diseases is 20 per cent and 14 per cent respectively in Tamil Nadu.

“Elderly are an important segment of our population. They have played a key role in shaping the future of the young India. The share of elderly population is expected to be at 12.4 per cent by 2026 [as per the Central Statistical Organisation's Situation analysis of the Elderly in India, 2011]. Therefore, it is essential for the health system in India to make special provisions for the healthcare for the elderly and, in particular, offer treatment and diagnostic services for the management of non-communicable diseases. Also, it is essential to immediately initiate screening of people over 50 against key non-communicable diseases and simultaneously start health education for the ageing population,” said K.P. Rajendran, team leader of the research study.

The study was done by to validate the improvement brought about by projects for elderly people being run by HelpAge India and Cordaid (Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid). It was done by capacity building organisation Four X 4 Consulting, with support from the Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kozhikode, Kerala and Manakula Vinayagar Medical College and Hospital, Puducherry, covering 1,800 families in Tamil Nadu and 450 families in Kerala by random sampling.

In Tamil Nadu, the most common self-reported chronic morbidities among the elderly were chronic joint pain (61.3 per cent), eye and ear problems (38.4 per cent), hypertension (20.7 per cent), diabetes (13.9 per cent), heart diseases (4.4 per cent), chronic respiratory illness (2.9 per cent), stroke (1.2 per cent) and chronic mental illness (0.6 per cent).

However, in Kerala, 71.6 per cent of the elderly had at least one of the chronic morbidities at the time of survey with hypertension topping the list (57.3 per cent), chronic joint pains ( 37.5 per cent), diabetes and ear/eye (32 per cent each), heart disease (17.1 per cent and asthma (11.4 per cent).

Also, in Tamil Nadu, most of the chronically ill elderly (46.5 per cent) accessed government healthcare services, followed by private hospitals (31.4 per cent). Five per cent accessed health care by village-based health clinics of HelpAge programme while 15.2 per cent took no treatment and the utilisation of Indian Systems of Medicine was less than 1.5 per cent on an average.

In Kerala, surprisingly most of the elderly received treatment from private hospitals (55.8 per cent), followed by government hospitals (34.6 per cent). Five per cent had adopted Indian Systems of Medicines and 2.4 per cent did not take any treatment.

Quality of life

The study measured quality of life with regard to four domains — physical health, psychological health, social relationships and environment. In the domains of physical, psychological and social, the project areas of HelpAge reported significant improvements in the quality of life of the elderly while the environmental changes — financial resources, physical safety, health and social care, home environment leisure activities — remained unchanged in both controlled and project areas.