Anaemia in the elderly residing in a south Indian rural community

Anaemia in the elderly residing in a south Indian rural community

Anaemia is common in the elderly; the reported prevalence ranging from 8% to 44%. The prevalence increases with age, the highest prevalence seen in men aged 85 and older. However, the process is not entirely physiological. Many authors believe that the finding of anaemia generally suggests an aetiology apart from the process of aging, even though there is a decrease in hematopoietic function in old age.

The objective of this study is to document the health and social profile of the elderly in the area, with a view to initiate service intervention based in the community.

A house to house survey was conducted in seven villages in a rural area near Bangalore, and 402 persons aged 60 years and above were identified. A structured interview was conducted at the residence of the elderly person, which included a 24-hour semi-quantitative dietary recall to estimate daily caloric and protein intake. Estimation of haemoglobin was done using the microhematocrit technique. Data analysis was done using EPI INFO version 6.0 for windows.

The results indicate that 8.09% (402) of the population (4965 persons) in the study villages are 60 years of age or older. Using the World Health Organisation criteria for the diagnosis of anaemia (haemoglobin less than 12 gm/dl in females and less than 13 gm/dl in males), the prevalence of anaemia is estimated to be 17.7%. The prevalence of anaemia increases with age in the study (p<0.01). Daily calorie intake, daily protein intake and Body Mass Index are found to be inversely related to anaemia (p<0.05).

The study concludes that anaemia is present in almost one fifth of the rural elderly population. The presence of anaemia in the elderly suggests the co-existence of malnutrition. Programmes aimed at the promotion and preservation of the health of the elderly must focus on their nutritional needs.

[Adapted from author]