How soon are you likely to die?

The answer depends on a number of factors like access to health services and sanitation infrastructure. But, in India, it also depends on something you have no control over: the social group to which you belong.

In a recently published research paper in the Economic and Political Weekly, “Caste, Religion, and Health Outcomes in India, 2004―14”, Vani Kant Borooah has investigated whether there is a “social gradient to health.

Borooah used data from the 60th round and the 71st round of the Morbidity and Health Care Surveys of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), which surveyed 73,911 households and 65,975 households respectively. You can use our tool to apply the data to yourself.

The average age at death in households is

0

years

India’s most marginalised social groups are dying faster. Your chances of dying younger are higher if you are a member of the SC and ST social group, and if you are Muslim.

SC, ST or OBC Muslim social groups suffer poorer health outcomes compared to non-Muslim Upper Caste and Forward Caste members.

Someone from an ST household is likely to die 7.1 years sooner.

A person from a Muslim upper class household is likely to die 8.1 years sooner.

A person from an SC household is likely to die 10 years sooner.

Data suggests that government spends less (including health goods) in areas with greater clusters of SC, ST and OBC Muslim groups. [1]

28.9% of Adivasis and 15.6% of Dalits have no access to doctors or clinics.

Only 42.2% of Adivasi children and 57.6% of Dalit children have been immunised [2].

Borooah’s findings foreground the degree of exclusion, lack of access and the unrelenting neglect that the institution of caste brings upon Indians. People's susceptibility to disease depends on more than just their individual behaviour. It depends on the social environment within which they lead their life. And, there is grave inequity in the way this social environment is built in India

Borooah’s paper also highlights other factors influencing health outcomes:

  • Having a flush tank or a septic tank latrine compared to other latrines or having no latrines reduced the probability of being in poor health.
  • For women, the probability of poor health is significantly higher than men.
  • Unmarried persons, widowed or divorced also had higher probability of being in poor health than married persons.
  • The probability of being in poor health was also higher for illiterate persons compared to graduates.
  • Living in a forward state (compared to living in a backward state) and belonging to a relatively affluent household significantly improved health outcomes.

To read more about the methodology and gain an in-depth understanding of health inequity in India, read the article here.

*a note on the categorisation: Vani Kanth Borooah combined the categories of “social group” and “religion” from NSSO 71st round “social group” and “religion” to subdivide households into these groups.

Since Dalit Muslims are not entitled to SC reservation benefits, the author moved the 74 Dalit Muslim households to the Muslim OBC category. Since Muslim ST persons are entitled to reservation benefits, these 264 households have been retained in the ST category

[1] See Sengupta, J and D Sarkar (2007): “Discrimination in Ethnically Fragmented Localities,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 42, No 32, pp 3313–22.

[2] See Guha, Ramachandra (2007): “Adivasis, Naxalites, and Indian Democracy,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 42, No 32, pp 3305–12.

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