Elderly adversely affected by COVID-19, only 19% have health insurance: IIT study

Chennai: A study by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras has underlined the need for greater government investment in public healthcare to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly.

It suggests that the elderly are bound to be adversely affected by COVID-19 norms such as physical distancing, isolation, which can lead to depression and other issues.

According to the study, diabetes, blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases are common in the elderly and those in the lower socio-economic strata suffer more. Mobility issues, dependence on the younger generation amid lockdown etc. affect their access to routine primary healthcare and essential care for other ailments.

“Only 18.9% of the elderly had health insurance and therefore may not be able to bear large expenditures on health. 27.5% of people aged 80 years or above are immobile and 70% of elders are partially or wholly financially dependent on others” said the study based on the 75th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2017-18.

Undertaken by Prof V.R. Muraleedharan, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Madras, and Dr Alok Ranjan, Assistant Prof, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences at IIT Jodhpur, the NSS survey covered 113,823 households and 555,115 individuals. The surveyed were randomly selected from 8077 villages and 6181 urban areas.

The results of this study, published in the International journal Globalization and Health, showed that disparities exist in health status as well as healthcare access of elderly people across the country.

Factors such as place of residence, gender, social group, marital status, living arrangements, surviving children, and economic dependence are said to impact healthcare access among the elderly. Missed treatments, unavailability of drugs also pose a major health challenge.

Dr. Alok Ranjan is of the opinion that lessons from the current pandemic are to ensure that future adversities are less detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of the elderly.

The researchers want to extend the result of this study to a policy. They plan to carry out detailed surveys among the elderly population particularly in Tamil Nadu, especially to design effective rehabilitative care which is almost absent in India’s public healthcare system.

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