Sex differences in non-communicable disease multimorbidity among adults aged 45 years or older in India
Objective: Older male and female adults differ in key characteristics such as disease-specific life expectancy, health behaviours and clinical presentations and non-communicable disease multimorbidity (NCD-MM). Therefore, examining the sex differences in NCD-MM among older adults is vital, as this issue is understudied in low-income and middle-income country (LMIC) contexts such as India, and has been growing in the past few decades.
Design: Large scale nationally representative cross-sectional study.
Settings and participants: Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI 2017-2018) had data on 27 343 men and 31 730 women aged 45+, drawn from a sample of 59 073 individuals across India.
Primary and secondary outcomes measures: We operationalised NCD-MM based on prevalence of the presence of two or more long-term chronic NCD morbidities. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analysis along with multivariate statistics were used.
Results: Women aged 75+ had a higher prevalence of multimorbidity as compared with men (52.1% vs 45.17%). NCD-MM was more common among widows (48.5%) than widowers (44.8%). The female-to-male ratios of ORs (RORs) for NCD-MM associated with overweight/obesity and prior history of chewing tobacco were 1.10 (95% CI: 1.01 to 1.20) and 1.42 (95% CI: 1.12 to 1.80), respectively. The female-to-male RORs show that the odds of NCD-MM were greater in formerly working women (1.24 (95% CI: 1.06 to 1.44)) relative to formerly working men. The effect of increasing NCD-MM on limitations in activities of daily living and instrumental ADL was greater in men than women but reversed for the hospitalisation.
Conclusions: We found significant sex differences in NCD-MM prevalence among older Indian adults, with various associated risk factors. The patterns underlying these differences warrant greater study, given existing evidence on differential longevity, health burdens and health-seeking patterns all of which operate in a larger structural context of patriarchy. Health systems in turn must respond to NCD-MM mindful of these patterns and aim to redress some of the larger inequities they reflect.