Journal Article

Religious differentials in morbidity prevalence and health care seeking behaviours among older persons in India

A plethora of studies have documented evidence on morbidity patterns and treatment-seeking behaviour among older persons in India. However, so far no attempt has been made to understand differences in the morbidity prevalence rates and utilization of health care services among older adults between religion groups in India. The purpose of this paper is to make an effort in this direction.

Multivariate logistic regression models were fitted to examine the association between socio-demographic conditions and morbidity prevalence and health care-seeking behaviours among the two religion groups: Hindu and Muslim. Data from the 60th round of the National Sample Survey in 2004 were used.

This study provided interesting evidence that, overall, the morbidity prevalence rate was higher among Muslim older persons than their Hindu counterparts by seven percentage points and Hindu scheduled caste (SC) and scheduled tribe (ST) counterpart population (compared to SCs eight percentage points, and STs 20 percentage points); income had no association with the burden of disease among Muslim older population—an older person belonging to the first income quintile was equally likely to report ill-health as an older person of the fifth income quintile. However, despite the low socio-economic status, Muslim older persons were more likely to seek treatment for ill-health compared to Hindu older persons but spent less money for treatment. Also, loss of household income due to sickness was greater among Muslim compared to Hindu older adults.

The findings of this study are important to support the policy makers and health care providers in identifying individuals "at risk" and could be integrated into the current programs of social, economic and health security for the older persons.