WHO report reveals steady rise in Pakistan’s elderly population

KARACHI: Presently with 4.2 percent of its total population over 65 years of age, Pakistan holds strong likelihood of doubling this percentage by 2025 exposing the country to varied social challenges, revealed a report compiled by researchers associated with Dow University of Health Science in collaboration with World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to a report, there is an immediate need to recognise and take comprehensive timely action to address population ageing. “This must be done through systematic integrated health care and social services complemented with continued family support,” emphasised the researchers.

Compilers of the report warned that emerging social and cultural transformations of declining traditional family values and extended family systems will not only further compromise the status of the older people, but also pose significant health and socio-economic implications on the country as a whole.

Mentioning that there were certain medical and psychosocial aspects exclusive to the older population, the researchers said predominant health conditions increasingly suffered by the elderly relate to the higher disease burden including hypertension (36 percent in elderly), diabetes, musculoskeletal problems, disabilities and cancers along with significant infectious diseases and their sequel.

Likewise 60 percent deaths due to diabetes, 59 percent due to cardio-vascular diseases and 29 percent due to cancers occur among old people above 60 years, the report revealed.

In Pakistan, 54 percent of men and 20 percent of women were identified to use different forms of tobacco and that limited physical exercise and unhealthy behaviours among them hold every chance to lead them to serious diseases such as hypertension, cancers etc, it added.

Simple preventive measures and healthy life style changes such as walking, physical activities, good balanced diet and refraining from risky habits including smoking and other tobacco substances were reiterated to save hundreds of lives, prevent disability and improve quality of life of old people. The researchers emphasised that a dignified existence is possible in old age provided a healthy life style is adopted through out life – with steps taken to prevent and control chronic health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

The afflictions of old age are an outcome of the health experiences and behaviours in earlier life, said the researchers mentioning the WHO calls for the promotion and practice of healthy behaviours and eating habits, regular exercise and avoidance of risk exposures like smoking.

It was further reminded that the current life expectancy of 65.99 years at birth in Pakistan will reach about 72 years by 2023, and that the government, society and communities as a whole, need to act now and plan together responsibly for health services and supportive environments favourable to graceful healthy ageing.



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