India’s Covid-19 Emergency: Deep-Rooted Issues behind the Current Crisis

Age is the single biggest risk factor for severe disease and death with COVID. India has an exceptionally young population, with only 6% aged 65 and over. Even with a slightly more deadly virus, one would expect most to recover at home without the need for hospital care. But a relatively unhealthy middle-aged population in part offsets this advantage.

Air pollution is closely associated with lung and heart disease. A whopping 17.8% of all deaths in India were due to pollution in 2019, and Delhi, currently flooded with COVID patients seeking oxygen, is the most polluted capital in the world.

Obesity is also a growing concern in India, with high rates in urban areas where COVID outbreaks have been most concentrated. The prevalence of diabetes in those aged 50-69 years is over 30%, much higher than in other Asian countries. One in five women of reproductive age has undiagnosed high blood pressure.

All of these are significant risk factors for death from COVID. Having an unhealthy population also leads to excess deaths because non-COVID health services are suspended during such emergencies.

Source: The Conversation

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