How Healthy are Keralites? An Exploration of Disability Free Life Expectancy

M. Benson Thomas, G. Sandeep


High Life Expectancies (LE) resulting from low mortality rates are often interpreted to indicate a high health status for Kerala. This interpretation can turn out to be inadequate when morbidity is considered. The available studies discuss the health status by analysing either mortality rates or morbidity rates that cannot indicate the expected healthy life years for the state. This study attempts to analyse the health status in Kerala using a combined index of mortality and morbidity, namely, Disability Free Life Expectancy (DFLE). Based on mortality data from Sample Registration System (SRS) and morbidity/disability data from National Sample Survey (NSS), it estimates DFLE at major age levels -for males and females, and for both rural and urban areas. The study finds LE and DFLE moving in opposite directions reflecting worsening health status in Kerala. This trend is noticeably higher for old adult and old age population at all the three levels, besides denoting a ‘morbidity expansion’. An analysis of diseases contributing to the loss of DFLE points to a major role of chronic/degenerative diseases at older ages. The study suggests that the state needs to focus on policies to reduce morbidity levels along with an increase in life expectancy.

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