Journal Article

Disability divides in India: evidence from the 2011 census

Saikia, N., Kumar Bora, J., Jasilionis, D., Shkolnikov, V. M.

PLoS One, 11:8, e0159809 (2016)


Keywords: India, disability, geographical distribution, socio-economic differentials


Understanding the socioeconomic and regional divides in disability prevalence in India has considerable relevance for designing public health policies and programs.
The aim of the present study is to quantify the prevalence of disability by gender, region (rural and urban; states and districts), and caste. We also examine the association between disability prevalence and the major socio-demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the districts in India.
Age-standardized disability prevalence (ASDP) was calculated using 2011 census data and applying the WHO World Standard Population. A regression analysis was carried out to examine the association between disability prevalence and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics across districts of India.
The study found that ASDP varies substantially across districts and is higher among women, rural dwellers, and members of scheduled tribes (STs) and scheduled castes (SCs). The regression model showed that the disability rate in districts rises with increasing proportions of the population who are urban dwellers, aged 65 or older, members of STs, and living in dilapidated housing; and that the disability prevalence decreases with increasing proportions of the female population who are literate, and of the general population who are working and have access to safe drinking water.
As the burden of disability falls disproportionately across geographic regions and socioeconomic groups, public health policies in India should take this variation into account. The definition of disability used in the census should be modified to generate internationally comparable estimates of disability prevalence.