Health Problems Among the Elderly: A Cross‑Sectional Study

Author(s): Thakur RP, Banerjee A, Nikumb VB

Background: Estimates of health problems of the elderly in developing countries are required from time to time to predict trends in disease burden and plan health care for the elderly. Developing countries have a poor track record of equitable distribution of health care. Marginalized groups living in urban slums and rural villages have poor penetration of health services. Aims: To identify the geriatric health problems in samples drawn from a slum and a village, and also to explore any gender and urban–rural difference morbidity. Subject and Methods: A community‑based cross‑sectional study was carried out by house to house survey of all people aged over 60 years in an urban slum and a village in the field practice area of a teaching hospital. The total elderly population in these two areas was 407, with an almost equal representation from urban slum and rural area. Information (most of them self‑reported) was collected in a pre‑tested instrument, which has been used earlier in a World Health Organization multicentric study in India. Categorical variables were summarized by percentages. Associations were explored with odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results: Female elders outnumbered the male elders; widows outnumbered widowers. Tobacco use was very high at 58.97% (240/407). Visual impairment (including uncorrected presbyopia) was the most common handicap with prevalence of 83.29% (339/407), with males more affected than females (OR = 2.52, 95% CI 1.32‑4.87). Uncorrected hearing impairment was also common. Urinary complaints were also more common in males (OR = 1.68, 95% CI = 0.93‑3.04). More rural elders were living alone than their urban counterpart (OR = 2.87, 95% CI 1.23‑6.86). History of weight loss was higher in the rural areas, while tendency to obesity was higher in the urban areas. An appreciable number 29.2% (119/407) had unoperated cataract. Prevalence of hypertension was 30.7% (125/407); 12% (49/407) had diabetes; 7.6% (31/407) gave history of ischemic heart disease, males more than females (OR = 3.75, 95% CI 1.62‑8.82). A large proportion, 32.6%, (133/407) had dental problems. Almost half of the population gave history of depression. Conclusion: A large number of unmet health needs, such as unoperated cataract, uncontrolled hypertension, uncorrected hearing impairment and tobacco use, exist in marginalized groups. Health interventions for these are needed in developing countries. Preventive services such as tobacco cessation campaigns among the elderly should also get priority.

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