Background: Behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol are known and modifiable contributors to a number of NCDs and health mediators. The purpose of this paper is to describe the distribution of main risk factors for NCDs by socioeconomic status (SES) among adults aged 50 years and older within a country and compare these risk factors across six lower- and upper-middle income countries.
Methods: The study population in this paper draw from SAGE Wave 1 and consisted of adults aged 50-plus from China (N=13,157), Ghana (N=4,305), India (N=6,560), Mexico (N=2,318), the Russian Federation (N=3,938) and South Africa (N=3,836). Seven main common risk factors for NCDs were identified: daily tobacco use, frequent heavy drinking, low level physical activity, insufficient vegetable and fruit intake, high risk waist-hip ratio, obesity and hypertension. Multiple risk factors were also calculated by summing all these risk factors.
Results: The prevalence of daily tobacco use ranged from 7.7% (Ghana) to 46.9% (India), frequent heavy drinker was the highest in China (6.3%) and lowest in India (0.2%), and the highest prevalence of low physical activity was in South Africa (59.7%). The highest prevalence of respondents with high waist-to-hip ratio risk was 84.5% in Mexico, and the prevalence of self-reported hypertension ranging from 33% (India) to 78% (South Africa). Obesity was more common in South Africa, the Russia Federation and Mexico (45.2%, 36% and 28.6%, respectively) compared with China, India and Ghana (15.3%, 9.7% and 6.4%, respectively). China, Ghana and India had a higher prevalence of respondents with multiple risk factors than Mexico, the Russia Federation and South Africa. The occurrence of three and four risk factors was more prevalent in Mexico, the Russia Federation and South Africa.
Conclusion: There were substantial variations across countries and settings, even between upper-middle income countries and lower-middle income countries. The baseline information on the magnitude of the problem of risk factors provided by this study can help countries and health policymakers to set up interventions addressing the global non-communicable disease epidemic.