Growing health problems may undo advantage.
By Rajiv Theodore
NEW DELHI: Many countries in the world today are grappling with an aging population. Over the next five to six years the average age in China and the US would be 37, Western Europe—45, and in Japan it would be 48. Amidst this demographic profile, India’s average age would clock a young 29 years. This demographic dividend could even help the GDP of the country add two per cent each year.
Moreover, a substantial sum (25 %) of the global increase of the working age population of 15-64 years till 2040 is projected to occur in India.
Today, more than half of India’s population is under the age of 25, with 65 percent of the population under 35. That’s good news. So far, however, India’s ability to reap the rewards of its huge demographic advantage is doubtful.
And now here’s the bad news.
According to a survey released on the occasion of World Men’s Health Week, lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, are now hitting more young Indian men in metropolitan cities.
In sweet spots like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai, younger men in their 30s and 40s suffer from these afflictions, despite being aware of the problem. Of the 38,966 samples screened this month, 56.81 percent had high diabetes levels. Over 41.48 percent of the samples were in the age group of 20-40.
The survey also found 8.21 percent with high cholesterol levels and 23.01 percent in the same age group. These patients are easy prey for cardiovascular diseases and other lethal ailments. Also, 4064 samples showed marginally high risk of prostate cancer.
And according to a large-scale government study over 40 million people from across the country screened under the Government’s National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, cardio-vascular Diseases and stroke (NPCDCS) has revealed that 6.34 per cent of the population is suspected to be suffering from diabetes and over 6 per cent are hypertensive.
Madhya Pradesh recorded the lowest diabetes (2.61 per cent). From the overall (16.91 lakh) of those tested, 44,133 people were found to be diabetic and 49,391 were hypertensive. Sikkim recorded the highest prevalence of diabetes (13.67 per cent) as well as hypertension (18.16 per cent). Gujarat had the second highest prevalence of diabetes (9.57 per cent) followed by Karnataka (9.41 percent) and Punjab (9.36 per cent).
States that recorded comparatively lower per cent of diabetes are Assam (4.91 per cent), Haryana (4.80 per cent), Kerala (4.79 per cent), Rajasthan (4.43 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (4.32 per cent).
The remaining states which fell in the middle order rung for diabetes among those surveyed are as follows: Andhra Pradesh (7.42 per cent),Tamil Nadu (6.50 per cent) West Bengal (6.34 per cent),Jharkhand (5.44 per cent),Jammu and Kashmir (5.61 per cent),Maharashtra (5.64), Himachal Pradesh (5.78 per cent), Bihar (5.83 per cent), Orissa (5.89 per cent), Chhattisgarh (5.92), Uttarakhand (5.44 per cent) and Delhi (5.02 per cent).
“Besides education, health is key to nation-building’’ Dr. Terrence Hermon from Mumbai who spoke to The American Bazaar, said. ‘’The key to transforming the demographic dividend into an economic growth lies not just in having more people, but having greater numbers of better trained, healthier and more productive people.”
India must harness the advantage of its youth to fulfill its economic potential, and in turn must generate growth in order to continue to support its growing population. India must act fast on health, education and employment failure to do so, however, will result in a demographic disaster, he said.