New Report by U.S. Government Spotlights Older People in Developing World
"Shades of Gray: A Cross-Country Study of Health and Well-Being of the Older Populations in SAGE Countries, 2007-2010" by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers new insight into the lives of older people in six countries: Mexico, Russia, Ghana, South Africa, China, and India.
Why aging in the developing world is important
This new report acknowledges the importance of older people in the developing world while noting that the world is quickly aging, especially in developing countries:
"Although considerable attention has been paid to the aging of populations around the world, the vast majority of this attention and related research has focused on higher-income countries. Yet about 65 percent of the world's population 60 years and older lived in less developed countries in 2010, and this proportion is projected to be 80 percent by the year 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).
The health status of the aging population is essential not only to those who comprise this age group, but also to the broader population because of the impacts on social and economic systems."
In these six countries alone, people 50 years and older represented 21 percent (598 million) of the combined 2010 total population, and they are projected to reach almost 40 percent in 2050 (1.3 billion). In China, almost half of China's population will be over 50 by 2050.
The burden of disease
Population aging is likely to bring an increase in chronic disease. In China, for example, 44 percent of the total burden of disease was from older people. Non-communicable disease are linked to poverty and socioeconomic disparity and no longer considered "diseases of affluence". In fact, the WHO reported that the proportion of "premature" NCD deaths in low-income countries was more than triple the proportion in high-income countries leaving NCDs are by far the leading cause of mortality.
After surveying individuals in each country, researchers found that Hypertension was by far the most common health condition among 50- to 69-year-olds while Arthritis was the second most common. Hypertension was most prevalent in Russia, where almost half of the 50- to 69-year-olds and nearly two-thirds of the 70-and-older population reported being diagnosed with the condition. Other common chronic conditions included cataracts, diabetes, and Edentulism.
Gender also affects likelihood of chronic disease. In all six countries, women were more likely to have hypertension than men.
Disability in old age
In all six countries, except China, more than three-fourths of the population aged 50 and over had a type of disability. In India and Russia, as many as nine in ten suffer from disabilities. Disability rates were higher among women than men in China, India, Russia, and South Africa, and higher among rural residents than urban residents in China, India, Mexico, and Russia.
Accessing Health Care
According to the WHO, direct out-of-pocket payments represent more than 50 percent of total health expenditures in some low-income countries. In Mexico, Russia, and South Africa, health care to a large extent was free, particularly for older South Africans. In contrast, in China, Ghana, and India, the bulk of the cost of medical care was borne by the patients themselves or their spouse, child, or other family/nonfamily members.
An exceptionally high 94.0 percent of older Indians paid for their outpatient care out-of-pocket. In each country, women were more likely to seek medical treatment than men.