What’s killing Indians? Depends on where you live…

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

 

Over 22,000 Indians die every day. In the 60s, communicable diseases were the main cause, accounting for about half the deaths. Since the 90s, it’s non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes. But all-India data doesn’t give the complete picture, as India is a diverse country. Economic and social conditions, and public health infrastructure, differ from state to state, region to region.

Besides, incidence of disease also varies depending on age group and gender. Granular data on the cause of deaths helps design better policies and solutions, and monitor public health.

India has been collecting data on the causes of deaths for over four decades now, following the passage of the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act in 1969. The Office of the Registrar General recently released a report with data for the year 2013, looking at 928,000 medically-certified deaths (about a fifth of medical deaths). The above data interactive captures the causes of death: by gender and age group, and for different regions and states. By default, the chart represents India numbers. To choose a specific region or state, use the dropdown. For gender-specific results, click on the buttons.

As one might expect, the causes of death differ based on age group. For example, while infections account for 12% of deaths across age groups, it accounts for about 25% of deaths in the 1-4 years age group. As people become older, chances of being claimed by circulatory and cardiovascular diseases go up. The risk of death by external causes—such as injuries or poisoning—is the highest between 15 to 34 years; and men are more likely to victims (8%) than women (6.5%). Cancer, on the other hand, claims more women (5.7%) than men (4.7%).

Even at the state level, there are many such nuances and comparative surprises. For example, Chhattisgarh is most prone to cardiovascular diseases (over 50% of its deaths were caused by diseases of the circulatory system), Uttarakhand the least (13.3%). In Kerala, at 15.2%, cancer as a cause of death is a full 10 percentage points above the national average. Similarly, deaths due to external causes are the highest among all states in Karnataka, followed by Nagaland.

It’s not clear why some states are more prone to certain categories of diseases. The report doesn’t go into those details. However, it could serve as a starting point for further research and appropriate intervention.

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