Socio-economic inequalities in the prevalence of multi-morbidity among the rural elderly in Bargarh District of Odisha (India)

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 5;9(6):e97832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097832. eCollection 2014.


Background: Multi-morbidity among elderly is increasingly recognized as a major public health challenge in most of the developing countries. However, information on the size of population suffering from multi-morbidity and socio-economic differentials of multi-morbidity is scarce. The objectives of this paper are twofold; first, to assess the prevalence of various chronic conditions and morbidity among rural elderly and second, to examine the socio-economic and demographic factors that have a significant effect on the morbidity.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey has been done using multi-stage random sampling procedure that was conducted among elderly (60+ years) in Bargarh District of Odisha during October 2011-February 2012. The survey was conducted among 310 respondents including 153 males and 157 females. Descriptive analyses were performed to assess the pattern of multi-morbidity. Logistic regression analyses were used to see the adjusted effect of various socio-economic and demographic covariates of multi-morbidity.

Results: The overall prevalence of multi-morbidity is 57% among rural elderly in Bargarh District of Odisha. The most common diseases in rural areas are: Arthritis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), High Blood Pressure and Cataract. Results from the logistic regression analyses show that age, state of economic independence and life style indicators are the most important measured predictors of multi-morbidity. Unlike earlier studies, wealth index and education have a marginal impact on multi-morbidity rate. Moreover, the occurrence of multi-morbidity is higher for elderly males compared to their female counterparts, though the difference is not significant.

Conclusion: The high prevalence of morbidity observed in the present study suggests that there is an urgent need to develop geriatric health care services in a developing country like India. Any effort to reorganize primary care for elderly people should also consider the high prevalence of multi-morbidity among rural elderly in India.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

The authors report no current funding sources for this study.