Kerala women's health needs different

Women in Kerala have higher life expectancy, they have an upper edge in the state’s sex ratio, are more prone to obesity and experience higher stress levels than men. A new study, therefore, says health problems faced by women in Kerala are different from those at the national level.

The study titled ‘Health of Women in Kerala: Current Status and Emerging Issues’ was conducted by researchers attached to the Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Studies (CSES) here and was distributed to the media Sunday. N. Ajith Kumar, director of CSES, and D. Radha Devi, visiting fellow of CSES, found that priorities, approaches and strategies set at the national level may not be appropriate for Kerala. Kerala has a sex ratio of 1,058 females per 1,000 males as compared to all-India average of 933 females per 1,000 males in the 2001 Census. According to the study, this means there are more women in Kerala than men whose health needs are to be met.

According to the 2001 Census, of Kerala’s 318.41 lakh population, 163.72 lakh are women. The study found that there was a difference between the life expectancy of females (76.3 years) and males (71.3 years) in Kerala. “The projections made by the Expert Committee on Population Projections constituted by the Planning Commission shows that in 20 years, women in Kerala will be living for an average of 79 years and men for 75 years. As people live longer, there has always been an increase in the number of years spent in poor health. “While on an average women live longer than men, they spend more years in poor health than men and thus the number of years needing geriatric care is also more,” said Ajith Kumar. “Among the aged, a higher proportion will be females, majority of whom are likely to be widows. In old age, physical, emotional and economic dependence increases in varying degrees which will have an impact on health.

More than two-thirds of the elderly females in Kerala were fully dependent economically on others. Since women live longer, are mostly home bound and financially dependent than men, they are soft targets for abuse,” the study said. The reserach points out that almost one-third of the deliveries in Kerala were by the caesarian section. The caesarian rate in Kerala is more than three times the national rate and is much higher than the maximum justifiable rate of 15 percent recommended by the World Health Organisation. Another important health issue the study threw up was that five percent of women in Kerala are obese, a much higher percentage as compared to the 2.8 percent among women across the country. Mental health is yet another issue highlighted by the research, which says that women of the state experience higher degrees of mental stress and anxiety and lower mental well-being compared to the men.

“The Kerala State Mental Health Authority draws a poignant picture of the state which has an increasing trend in suicides among females between the ages 15-29 years. Marital stress is cited as a major reason. This calls for a gender sensitive approach to mental health care,” added Ajith Kumar. The study concludes that Kerala needs to work out strategies specific to particular groups of people who are vulnerable in terms of health and address issues like old age problems of women and widows, increasing cost of healthcare, obesity and occupational health.




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Directorate of Social Welfare.
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